Celebrity chef Scott Conant—whose restaurants span America from Atlanta to Scottsdale, the Catskills and more—answered Modern Luxury's 20 rapid fire questions.
Conant shared his favorite comfort food, essential Italian ingredients and one ingredient he can't stand. Read our full Q&A below:
My favorite ingredient to cook with always includes peperoncino. Crushed red pepper flakes.
Oh it's hard to say but I've been cooking the Spaghetti Pomodoro for a better part of 30 years now.
Sweet or savory?
I'd have to go with savory.
Red or white wine?
Red wine. You give me an aged Barolo and I will drink it.
Best cooking tip?
Best cooking tip I've ever received? Turn the flames down. I always think that's really important. If you're searing something that high heat—but otherwise, low, just turn it down a little bit.
[My] favorite cuisine outside of Italian would have to be Japanese.
Most challenging dish?
Most challenging dish I've ever cooked? You know trying to match mom's meatballs ... that's a tough one. I can't do it.
Favorite food city?
[My] favorite food city in the world? It's a toss up between New York and Tokyo.
Three essential ingredients?
Top three essentials in Italian cusine—really good olive oil. Parmigiano Reggiano. And as I said, peperoncino.
Favorite pasta dish?
I will take a spaghetti aglio e olio any day of the week.
Must-have herb or spice?
I always have to have basil around. I always have to have fresh parsley, fresh thyme, even rosemary if I'm cooking steaks and things like that. You know, I think fresh herbs in general are just really important to cook with.
Least favorite ingredient?
One ingredient that I can't stand? It's kind of well noted—raw, red onions in a salad. Pickle them! Do something with them! Salt and vinegar or water! Any one of those things, all three of those things! Any two of those things!
Favorite comfort food?
My mom's chicken cutlets. Every time I see her, I ask her to cook them.
Best food memory?
Best memory from my childhood? You know there [are] so many good ones of just sitting around at a table, particularly on holidays or Sundays and spending time with the family. Being a little kid and looking around that table at all the adults. Those are great memories.
If I see a souffle on a menu, I order it. I don't care if I'm in the finest dining of restaurants or in a T.G.I Friday's, I will order the souffle if I see it.
Best way to elevate a simple dish?
The best way to elevate a simple dish is be thoughtful. I always say that the level of luxury that you're trying to extract from something is the amount of thoughtfulness that you put into it.
If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
Anyone on Earth, famous or otherwise? I really want to cook for Rick Rubin. I love that guy.
Always add more?
When in doubt, always add more Parmigiano.
Never go too heavy on the salt. You can always add more, it's really hard to take away.
Last meal on Earth?
A proper Italian hero from the place Cavallo's down the street from my house growing up. My mom's chicken cutlets. My mom's sausage and peppers on a hero. Yeah, I want one of those right now.
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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity; Reporting from Laura Eckstein Jones.
Photography by: Madison McGaw, BFA.com