The Untold Truth Of Scott Conant

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Simply put, Scott Conant is one of the most recognizable chefs in the country. If you don't know him by his award-winning restaurants, you've undoubtedly seen his face on television  (via After all, there's hardly a Food Network or daytime talk show he hasn't appeared on in some capacity. But as with all well-known individuals, there's more to Conant's story than meets the eye. 

According to Forbes, the acclaimed chef first started cooking when he was just a teenager and has been working professionally for more than three decades (via Along the way, he's reached the highest of highs (winning a James Beard Award), while also suffering his fair share of setbacks (restaurants closing, business partnerships splitting). So how exactly did Conant get to where he is today? From his European influences and early blue-collar career aspirations to his ever-growing IMDb page and new Southwestern home base, here is the untold truth of Scott Conant.

Scott Conant grew up in an Italian-American household

Scott Conant's story begins in his hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. He was born into an Italian family living in an Italian neighborhood. According to Forbes, Waterbury has the most Italian descendants of any city in Connecticut, which itself has one of the highest rates of Italian citizens.

Conant's heritage would ultimately play a significant part in shaping his career, but that impact was first felt at a very young age. "Growing up in the Northeast as an Italian-American has greatly influenced my cooking style," he told Forbes. "From my grandmother's Italian cooking and studying abroad, I have always looked to Italy for inspiration — whether it's the rolling hills of Piedmont, the vineyards of Tuscany, or the coasts of Amalfi and Ancona. I cook American food through an Italian lens."

On the other side of his family tree, his father's ancestry is as American as you can get. In fact, it can be traced all the way back to the founding of Salem, Massachusetts. "So, I have a true balance of American and Italian," Conant told The New York Times. "And I feel that very personal approach is represented in my food."

He originally planned on being a plumber

As we all learn at some point in our lives, occasionally it's best that our plans don't work out. Award-winning chef Scott Conant is a shining example. As far back as high school, Conant had dreams of working in the kitchen, but not as a chef whipping up a plate of lobster gnocchi for hungry guests. Rather, he had his eyes set on fixing a clogged kitchen sink. That's right: Conant originally aspired to become a plumber.

In an interview with Medium, Conant revealed that he attended a vocational high school where he applied to a plumbing program. After being denied entry, he aimed his sights elsewhere. "Fortunately, I chose culinary arts as a second choice and it resonated with me right away," he told the outlet. "At the same time, I started a job as a dishwasher at a family friend's restaurant in Connecticut. Both experiences developed my initial interest in food." That initial interest eventually led Conant to pursue formal training at the Culinary Institute of America. The rest, as they say, is history.

Scott Conant studied pastry making in Germany

While still studying at the Culinary Institute of America, Scott Conant was interning at the Manhattan restaurant San Domenico. Upon graduating, he set his sights abroad, according to Bespoke Concierge Magazine. The aspiring chef booked a plane ticket across the Atlantic to work at Germany's legendary Hotel Bayerischer Hof. "It was an interesting time because the [Berlin] Wall had just come down in 1989, and so a lot of foreigners were starting to feed into West Germany [from the east] and throughout Europe," he told the outlet. "At the same time, it was like a time capsule — no changes in infrastructure."

One of the many skills Conant picked up during his time in Germany was pastry making. "I studied pastry briefly in Germany; so don't consider it a formal background," he told Total Food Service. "It has taught me how to know what's 'good' and speak the same language to our pastry chefs." That knowledge has certainly come in handy recently as Conant has hosted two sweet-toothed competition shows on Food Network: "Chopped Sweets" and "Best Baker in America."

Scott Conant has built a culinary empire

Over the course of more than 35 years, chef Scott Conant has carved out an impressive plot of real estate for himself in the culinary world (via The most noteworthy components of his portfolio are the numerous restaurants he has owned and operated in his career. It all started in 2002 when Conant debuted the acclaimed Manhattan eatery L'Impero. He followed that up two years later with Alto, another successful New York City restaurant. But of all his establishments, Conant is likely best known for founding Scarpetta, a famed Italian eatery with locations across the country. He currently has three restaurants to his name: Cellaio Steak in New York's Catskill mountains, Mora Italian in Phoenix, and The Americano in Scottsdale, Arizona (via

As impressive as they are, restaurants are just one of Conant's many culinary ventures. He's the author of four cookbooks, including one released this past fall (via He appears as a judge, host, mentor, and guest on countless cooking shows. Conant even has his own private wine label, SC Wines. The line consists of a trio of Italian vino varieties: a 2017 Pinot Grigio, 2016 Super Tuscan, and 2015 Barolo.

Those wishing to follow in Conant's enviable footsteps are in luck. The acclaimed culinary mastermind also works as the Master Chef for Sur La Table Online Culinary Institute where he offers online cooking courses to take from the comfort of your own home.

A split with his business partner got nasty

Although Scott Conant has built an enviable career for himself, it hasn't all been smooth sailing for him on the business front. Arguably the most notable blight came roughly 15 years ago when he separated from his then-business partner Chris Cannon. At the time, the duo owned two New York City restaurants together: Alto and L'Impero. Everything seemed to be going well until 2007 when, out of nowhere, the two decided to go their separate ways (via Grub Street). It turns out Conant had grandiose dreams of expansion while Cannon was content keeping things as they were. "There are things I wanted to do, and he wasn't necessarily on the same page with that," Conant told Grub Street. "I need to achieve my potential. The restaurant business is changing, becoming more fluid, and I need to evolve with it."

Cannon bought Conant out of the business but the two claimed they maintained nothing but respect for each other. Just a few months after Conant's departure, however, their tunes changed quite drastically. The following summer, Conant was quoted in media outlets calling those running his former restaurants "incompetent," according to Eater NY. By the end of the year, he had also filed a lawsuit against his former partner for unpaid compensation of more than $100,000. Cannon didn't take this laying down. He countersued Conant for violation of his contract as well as defamation.

Scott Conant was once sued by his restaurant staff

Judging by his amount of television work and the success of his restaurants, Scott Conant is a pretty popular guy. But not everyone has had such admiration for the award-winning chef. Notable among them was a group of employees at Conant's upscale New York eatery Scarpetta, who accused him of stiffing them of their hard-earned tips.

In 2015, a number of past and present Scarpetta employees sued Conant and the restaurant for withholding tips and paying them less than minimum wage, the New York Daily News reported. According to the lawsuit, Scarpetta had a tipping system in which tips were pooled and included in paychecks. Furthermore, the tips were shared with sommeliers and managers who should not have been eligible. This led to workers losing out on approximately $50 a night, causing some wages to drop below the legal minimum of $7.25 an hour. "I gave my life to them," a former busboy told the Daily News. "I respected them but they just didn't care."

Conant had already left the business at the time the lawsuit was filed but was there when the alleged practices were occurring. According to Emerging, he denied any involvement in the restaurant's tipping system.

He appeared on an episode of Entourage

Scott Conant is no stranger to the television cameras. He has appeared on more than 50 different shows over the last 15-plus years, according to IMDb. But in nearly all of these instances, the chef has appeared on a non-scripted show, be it as a host, judge, or guest. That was not the case in 2011, when Conant got an ever so brief taste of the Hollywood life by showing up in an episode of the hit HBO show "Entourage." In episode six of the show's final season, some of the characters dine at the Beverly Hills outpost of Conant's Scarpetta restaurant. And who just happens to be there to serve them? Why the head chef himself.

According to Eater NY, Conant wasn't the only culinary star to appear in the episode. His Food Network colleague Bobby Flay had an even bigger — and more memorable — role. The "Boy Meets Grill" host goes on a romantic dinner date with Ari Gold's wife. When Gold finds the two, he is none to pleased and delivers the line, "I got a new show for you, it's called Boy Meets Husband Who Kills Him" (via IMDb).

Scott Conant is a mainstay on Food Network

There are oodles of famous chefs in the country, yet few are more recognizable than Scott Conant. Why is that? Well, quite simply, the man loves being on television. And on no platform does Conant grace TV screens more than on the Food Network. The chef has been a mainstay on the popular channel since first appearing in 2009. That year, Conant joined the rotating panel of judges on the ever-popular competition show, "Chopped." He's remained a part of the program ever since.

In 2020, Conant went from judge to host, leading a dessert-themed "Chopped" spinoff called "Chopped Sweets." Per Conant's Food Network bio, he has also hosted the second and third seasons of Food Network's "Best Baker in America." Along with his regularly scheduled work, Conant has been made countless appearances on other Food Network shows. A small sampling of his credits include "Guy's Grocery Games," "American Restaurant Battle," "Tournament of Champions," "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," "Beat Bobby Flay," "Worst Cooks in America," "Celebrity Food Fight," and "Food Network Star."

He is a staple of the talk show circuit

"Being on television has helped broaden the range of people I cook for," Conant once told Forbes. "It has served as a great marketing platform for my team and me to connect with people not only around the country but around the world." Conant isn't just talking the talk when it comes television appearances, he's walking the walk. The chef has more IMDb credits than most actors. Conant is a frequent guest on the "Today" show, "The Talk," "Good Morning America," and "Rachel Ray." He's also appeared on countless other shows including "Megyn Kelly Today," "The Chew," "The Kelly Clarkson Show," and "Home & Family." Conant also made two guest appearances on "Top Chef," including the Season 2 finale.

While Conant is no stranger to serving as a judge or teacher on television, you'll be hard-pressed to find him in another on-air role many chefs are turning to lately: competitor. Even though he won Season 3 of "Chopped: All-Stars," it turns out Conant does not enjoy competitive cooking. "I hate competing. And I don't use that word very often," Conant told Mashed. "I really, really hate competing. It's not the way I cook. First of all, I don't like competition because I am overly competitive and I lose my sense of self and I don't have fun. And I feel like because I'm not having fun, I don't want to do it. I don't want to do anything that I don't enjoy."

His restaurant Fusco was named after his grandmother

We know by now what an immense influence Scott Conant's Italian family had on his culinary pursuits. But more than any other relative, it was his grandmother who instilled in him his love of the kitchen. "She had a big wooden board in the house that she would use to make cavatelli or orecchiette," Conant recalled in an interview with Food & Wine. "I always remember those pastas, especially her cavatelli with broccoli rabe. It wasn't necessarily the flavor profiles, but it was really the spirit of the food that has always resonated strongly with me."

In 2017, when Conant was opening his first independent restaurant in a decade, he chose to pay homage to his family's matriarch by naming the eatery Fusco, his grandmother's maiden name. The tribute didn't stop there, as the influence Conant's grandmother had on him could be seen throughout the restaurant. "When I think about old world hospitality, I always think about my grandmother and how she engaged people when they entered her home," he told Food & Wine. "She always seemed to be prepared and I think there's something to be said about that virtual hug or level of warmth. It's that same type of hospitality that I want to provide at the restaurant."

Unfortunately, Fusco had a short run. According to Eater New York, it closed a year after opening due to increased operational costs.

Scott Conant's wife has taught him a thing or two about cooking

In 2007, Scott Conant married Meltem Bozkurt, an entrepreneur involved in a line of work worlds away from a kitchen. According to Distractify, Bozkurt founded the pet accessory company New York Dog. Together, the pair have two daughters.

Based solely on her occupation, it may seem that Bozkurt wouldn't be able to offer Conant much career inspiration. That preconceived notion, however, couldn't be further from the truth. Bozkurt, a Turkish-American whose culinary-loving family still resides in the European country, has opened her husband's eyes to an entire new cuisine. The Conant clan visit Turkey every year, where the James Beard-winning chef gets an annual lesson in Turkish cooking. "We don't let Scott cook much, other than maybe throw a fish on the grill and toss an occasional salad," Bozkurt told Food & Wine. "We want to show off our food."

The culinary influence Bozkurt has had on Conant is represented in his new cookbook, "Peace, Love, and Pasta." The collection of recipes near and dear to the chef's heart includes a chapter featuring nothing but Turkish cooking. "It's really a big part of our household," Conant told Forbes. "These are dishes my daughters love and we love to cook them for them.

Scott Conant has garnered some serious accolades

With great accomplishments come great awards. That has certainly been the case for Scott Conant, who has strung together quite an impressive list of accolades over the last two decades (via The first shining star on his resume came after he opened his debut restaurant, Manhattan's L'Impero, in 2002. Not only did the eatery receive praise from publications such as Gourmet, as well as a three-star review from the New York Times, it won the Best New Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation. For his work in the kitchen, meanwhile, Conant was named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2004.

Speaking of James Beard Awards, Scott Conant has become quite familiar with the prestigious honor over the years. In addition to his win in 2003, the chef has been nominated two other times (in 2005 and '09) and was a semifinalist on four more occasions (2009, '10, '11, and '12).

Scott Conant recently moved from New York City to Scottsdale, Arizona

New York City is one of the culinary capitals of the world, currently boasting 65 Michelin-starred restaurants. Having your own eatery in the Big Apple is an accomplishment most chefs would consider to be their highest aspiration. But after roughly 20 years of working in New York, the hustle and bustle became more than it was worth for Scott Conant. "It got to the point where it was so much stress to live [in New York City]," Conant told Worth. "It was relentless. And I needed a break. Honestly, I feel like I was unhealthy. I was working too much. And I was making bad business decisions because of all those things. So, I really just kind of took a step back and said, 'I'm going to move to a place where I feel like I'm on vacation when I go there, when I'm going home.'"

In 2018, Conant and his family packed up their bags and headed west to Scottsdale, Arizona. It might seem like a strange place to live for an award-winning chef, but the desert town is a burgeoning culinary destination, home to several high-profile restauranteurs. He explained to Worth, "I think we tend to be in a bubble in New York City, and we don't realize that there's a lot of other places that you can spread your wings and be yourself, and it'll all work out great."

The pandemic didn't stop him from writing a cookbook

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to work from home. That option, however, was impossible for restaurant owner Scott Conant. But fortunately for him, Conant has more than a few irons in the fire. Amongst his many business ventures is writing cookbooks, and when his restaurants were shut down, he had all the time he needed to pen his latest work. Conant told Forbes that he began writing "Peace, Love, and Pasta" prior to the pandemic but most of the heavy lifting was done when he was stuck at home. "More of the work and recipe testing took place during the throes of the pandemic," he said. "We finished it in September 2020."

The cookbook is an inside look at Conant's culinary career, with semi-biographical chapter introductions and recipes culled from throughout his life. "The idea was to showcase the food I cook at home for my family," he said. "The book includes recipes that I cooked as a kid when I was growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut and dishes that I made in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Turkey."