Chef Scott Conant aims to cook like Nona Carmela

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Published October 19, 2012

| FoxNews.com

Chef Scott Conant has built an empire perfecting the food he knows best – Italian.

From the James Beard award-winning L’Impero to his landmark Scarpetta restaurants, Conant is serving up critically-acclaimed Italian fare that stays true to its rustic roots.

“I didn’t want to do Italian American food. I didn’t want to do chicken parmesan and things of that nature,” Conant told FoxNews.com's Kitchen Superstars. “However, things that were a little more artistic, a little more fancified, if you will, but still rustic and soulful and honest and inspires you to grab a piece of bread and sop up what’s on the plate – which is what Scarpetta means.”

Conant draws much of his inspiration from his grandmother, Carmela.

“I still have this vision of her with a big table … making tagliatelle for the family, but still maintaining order inside the house,” Conant said. “There was something about that that has always inspired me, and now I’m creating a hospitality company and focusing on what the vision of that is from the guests’ perspective.”

Conant’s drive to become a chef began at a young age, but he almost went down a very different path.

“I went to this vocational school for high school … I tried to get into the plumbing program, I couldn’t get in,” Conant said. “As a second choice, I chose culinary arts … as soon as I walked out of the kitchen for the first time I knew this was what I wanted to be.”

After attending culinary school, his career skyrocketed after Conant opened L’Impero in New York's Tudor City neighborhood. The excellent service, good food and rave reviews landed him on the cover of Food & Wine, and Gourmet declared that Conant “raises the roof on the Manhattan school of Italian cooking.” Since then his empire has grown.

Conant is one part chef, one part entrepreneur and one part media mogul. Conant has launched an events platform that includes private dining at his culinary suite, a sprawling loft in New York City with a complete kitchen and long dining room table that can accommodate up to 34 people for a sit down dinner or 60 for cocktails. He has written two cookbooks and is hard at work on a third. He is a frequent judge on Food Network’s “Chopped,” and was the host of “24 Hour Restaurant Battle.” All this, in addition to his restaurants across five U.S. cities --including Scarpetta Beverly Hills at Montage Beverly Hills and D.O.C.G. Enoteca at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Despite all this, he still pays close attention to the dining experience. 

“I think there’s a certain experience that people want inside a restaurant, especially an Italian restaurant. The hospitality component is super important,” Conant said. “I think you can go to any restaurant and have good food, but it’s not every restaurant you have good food and great service.”

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