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The Interview: Chef Scott Conant

The Interview: Chef Scott Conant

Scott Conant is one of the best-known chefs in America, and not just because he’s a frequent judge on Food Network’s Chopped. He got his start as sous chef at New York’s San Domenico, then went on to open L’Impero, which garnered a three-star review from The New York Times, and in 2004 Food & Wine named him one of America’s best new chefs. He then opened Alto, one of the few Northern Italian restaurants in New York at that time, and in 2008 he went on to open Scarpetta, which won him another three-star Times review, the flagship of an empire that now includes restaurants of the same name in Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, and Toronto.

Conant took some time to chat with us about the signs of a good restaurant, the best meal he’s ever eaten, and living off a $100 handshake.

The Daily Meal: What was your first restaurant industry job?
Scott Conant: My first job was as a dishwasher in my hometown of Waterbury, Conn., in a restaurant that’s not around anymore. I did that for three or four months, and then I started prepping. I worked there for 60 hours a week in high school. I remember coming home, and I would smell so much that my mother would make me take my clothes off outside and would immediately throw them in the washing machine.

When you first walk into a restaurant, what do you look for as signs that it’s well-run, will be a good experience, etc.?
People who work in the industry always look at restaurants a little differently. It starts with the process of making the reservation and getting in. If I have an unusual request, great restaurants will never say no. Then there’s the sense of arrival, and if it’s clean. The greeting is essential: if there’s no sense of warmth, or a smile, then they’re already starting from behind. People are sensitive to these things, almost subconsciously. Then there’s the service. I rarely bring up problems, and when I do I do so hesitantly. But if they don’t take responsibility for a shortcoming, it’s incredibly annoying.

Is there anything you absolutely hate cooking?
You know, there really isn’t.

If one chef from history could prepare one dish for you, what would it be?
I came up at San Domenico, and the chef there was Nino Bergese. He’s credited with inventing the uovo in raviolo, which is their signature dish there and downtown at SD26. I would have that dish, prepared by him.

What do you consider to be your biggest success as a chef?
In my profession there’s no challenge as big as adapting to the culinary world, and knowing that there are going to be inherent struggles. Not only the struggle of hard work, but the struggle between being an artist and a businessman. Knowing it existed, knowing I had to go through it, and being able to adapt to, and work through, all the negativity out there, I consider that to be my biggest success.

What do you consider to be your biggest disappointment as a chef?
I had a restaurant years ago called Alto. It got a bad New York Times review, and I was really hurt, and disappointed that we weren’t really able to capture that moment. Our dishes were from the north of Italy, and not many other restaurants were serving that cuisine at the time. I really wanted to capture that.

What is the most transcendental dining experience you’ve ever had?
There have been so many fantastic experiences for different reasons. The service at Per Se and restaurants in Europe were flawless. But the food at Meadowood was just— there are no words for it. I found myself just sitting there and contemplating the food, and the flow to the courses. It was a really emotional experience! I don’t know how he does it. I got up from the table and went into the kitchen and gave Chris Kostow, the chef, and everyone else in the kitchen a hug.

Are there any foods that you will never eat?
I never understood the appeal of durian.

Is there a story that, in your opinion, sums up how crazy and interesting the restaurant industry can be?
This industry is so unlike everything else. Years ago I was a chef downtown. It was starting to get decent reviews, and the food was admittedly good, but the service and ambiance needed work. The ownership was really underfunded, though, and I would go months without getting paid. I didn’t want to talk about it with my roommate at the time, so he’d give me the rent money but instead of paying the landlord I’d pay my staff. Every Thursday a couple would come in, doctors, and he’d give me a $100 handshake. And that’s what I’d live off, week to week. Twice a year they’d go to Italy and I’d be broke! That’s just one of the crazy things about this industry. People do this in the restaurant business all the time, living off tips.


11 Things You Didn't Know About Scott Conant

Scott Conant, as seen on Food Networks Chopped, Season 15.

Photo by: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

David Lang, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

You've seen them judge the competition, battle for the title of All-Stars champion and compete in a friendly game with colleagues on After Hours, but there's a lot you don't know about the judges of Chopped. Here's your chance to get to know the nine people behind the Chopping Block.

Scott Conant is well known for his Italian restaurant, Scarpetta, in New York City. In 2010 he opened additional locations in Toronto, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. Many people know Scott as the finicky judge who hates onions on Chopped, but there's more to this chef than meets the eye. Besides cooking professionally, Scott loves to cook with his 3-year-old daughter. If given the choice, he'd rather eat his mom's cooking over a fancy meal for his last supper. Find out more about Scott in his Q&A below.

What's your Achilles' heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else's dish?

Scott Conant: Pretension. One time, people gave me a bunch of mood boards and wanted me to create a menu based on a series of pictures. I have no patience for that.

What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?

What was your most memorable meal? What, where, who? Details, please.

SC: Meadowood in St. Helena, Calif. The balance of flavors, the creativity, the soulfulness, the service, the execution — all of it was perfect. Within its perfection, it was an emotional experience.

SC: Skippy Reduced Fat, Super Chunk Peanut Butter.

Is there one dish that you always order out and never make at home?

If you weren't in food, what career would you like to have tried?

SC: I would have been a baseball player when I was younger and now be so rich I wouldn't have to work anymore.

SC: Tokyo. Best food top to bottom that I've ever had.

SC: Popcorn with sea salt and popped in extra virgin olive oil.


Food Hacks or Mess Porn? Celebrity Chefs Unpack a Weird Viral Trend

Scott Conant and Andrew Zimmern offer their unvarnished opinions on the addictive, disgusting videos taking over the Internet—and whether or not they’re just mess porn in disguise.

Laura Bradley

C elebrity chef and Chopped judge Scott Conant knows that those gross food hack videos are not meant to be taken seriously. He knows those videos are just for fun. Nevertheless, as a lover of food and especially as an Italian American, he can’t help but ask himself one question when he sees someone pour SpaghettiOs into a pie crust with a dollop of milk, or dump a jar of Prego onto their countertop: “Why?

“It’s like a train wreck to a certain extent,” Conant told The Daily Beast during a recent interview ahead of the release of his book, Peace, Love, and Pasta. “You can’t look away, right? Especially as a professional, it’s hard to look away from that.”

For months now, these videos have transfixed us all in horror, confusion, and prurient fascination. The formula is often the same: A slender white woman spreads some sort of unseemly gloop onto a gleaming stone countertop before covering it in a mess of toppings. Sometimes it’s canned pasta in a pie shell, or peppermints melted onto a waffle iron. Many of these videos also focus heavily on sound, particularly those moist sounds food can make that can range from suggestive to downright pornographic.

Maybe this all started when Robert Pattinson introduced us all to his unholy masterpiece of cringe cuisine, Piccolini Cuscino. Maybe it’s just the internet doing what it does best and mashing up two genres—in this case, prank videos and viral food tutorials from companies like Tasty. Maybe it’s thinly-veiled mess porn, or simply a sign that we’re all just bored. Whatever the reason for the “hacks”’ popularity, they’ve become inescapable for us all—including celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Conant, and Andrew Zimmern.

“It’s kind of like the kid that you knew in the neighborhood who always does bad things,” Conant said. “The amount of effort that that kid puts into the bad things… if you put that same effort into good things, we’d all be living in a better place.”

Sure, Conant is a chef who, by his own admission, likes fancy things. Still, he insists his gripe with these videos is not really about that.

“It’s really more about being thoughtful and being caring and understanding that your body needs sustenance, and not just. I mean it’s really, frankly, if I may, I hate to say this, but it’s kind of garbage. Why would you do that to yourself?” he said with a laugh. “Have a little more self respect. I mean, I get the attention that they’re seeking, but really, that is rough.”

Oddly enough, many of these videos tend to emerge from the same small web of creators and producers, most of whom connect with one man—Richard Lax, a magician who is now also, as Eater put it in a fascinating report on Lax and the Gross Food Hack Industrial Complex, “essentially the face of Facebook’s Watch program.” Those are the videos that all appear to follow the same recipe—conventionally attractive white woman, expensive-looking kitchen, lots of canned goods. But other creators take things in a different direction. TikToker Liam Donafee, aka @liamslunchbox, often wears his shoulder-length hair under a beanie while cooking up foods that feel vaguely inspired by the popular YouTube channel Epic Meal Time. (Think: bacon-wrapped oreos and barbecue spaghetti tacos.)

Zimmern has been following Donafee’s work for some time, and at this point has become something of a connoisseur of the genre itself—well-versed in the nuances that separate an okay gross food hack from a great gross food hack. But the distinguishing factor might not be what you think.

“The best of them don’t give a crap about the food,” the Family Dinner host told The Daily Beast. “They’re there for the juvenile ASMR value to some piece of the video. There’s usually some kind of mildly deviant sexual undertone.”

He’s not wrong. As Eater notes, these videos feel like an American version of mukbang—eating videos that originated in Korea that “range from harmless and wholesome to intentionally outrageous and grotesque” and that have long been seen as fetishistic. Watch the SpaghettiOs pie video, for instance, and you might notice the couple moments when the video seems to linger for just a moment too long on the wet sound produced while a spatula spreads the toppings. Donafee’s recipes often involve him stirring something suggestively with two fingers, or plunging his whole fist into a bucket of, say, ketchup—and the sounds, in some cases, are genuinely obscene.

“I instantly was 13 years old again watching this,” Zimmern said of a video that finds Donafee making buffalo chicken dip in a martini glass. “It was just messy, dirty hands in food—and not the good way. I use my hands when I cook. This was designed for a laugh.” That said, he noted, the over-the-top recipes can be a little more sophisticated than pouring one canned thing on top of another.

When asked what he makes of the idea that these videos are just thinly-veiled mess porn, Conant offered, “Everybody has their quirks, right? I’m not one to judge. If that’s the thing, then that’s fine. But there’s no reason to subject yourself to actually consuming it.”

And when he watched the video a second time? He laughed just as hard.

Anyone who doesn’t see the sexual undertones of these videos, Zimmern said, is “either clueless or they’ve never gotten laid—and you can quote me on that… I mean, it’s a very specific sound.” The copycat videos that skip out on the lewd sounds, he added, don’t completely “get” the joke and are far less amusing. (As he put it, “Bravo for repurposing something in a can.”)

Donafee’s work has even caught the attention of unlikely TikTok star Gordon Ramsay, who often duets with videos of home cooks to either praise or roast their recipes. (You can probably guess which happens more often.) So far, Donafee has managed to gross Ramsay out with his Fruity Pebbles mozzarella sticks, Fruity Pebbles beef wellington, and, most recently, his Fruity Pebbles caviar. Ramsay’s reaction speaks to the participatory element all of us bring to these videos as viewers his exaggerated reactions to what is obviously a prank mirrors our own willingness to be “in” on the joke, indulging these pranks by taking them, at least to a certain degree, a little seriously as we contemplate what it would be like to actually eat the food in earnest.

When asked how they would respond if anyone ever did greet them at a party with, say, a spread of nachos made directly on the counter with room temperature nacho cheese, unseasoned beans, and a full jar of jalapeños, Conant and Zimmern diverged. While the former said he would politely decline, the latter said he’d stick with a rule he learned from his father: Try every food at least twice. Besides, he added, “Have you watched some of my episodes of Bizarre Foods—the things I’ve put in my mouth? SpaghettiO pie pales in comparison to buried for 90 days and then fermented and then dried Greenlandic ice shark.” Touché!


Scott Conant

Scott Conant hosts an all-new confection competition premiering Feb 3 at 10|9c!

Take Cooking Classes with Scott on the Food Network Kitchen App

Download the Food Network Kitchen app to learn how to make Scott's Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and more top-notch recipes.

Scott's Extras

Cook Like Scott

See how Scott Italianizes classic American dishes.

Chopped After Hours 16 Videos

Watch the Chopped judge take on the mystery baskets.

Scott's Test Kitchen 8 Photos

When he's not on Chopped, Scott cooks in his test kitchen.

Episodes

Oodles of Noodles

The chefs are tasked with making noodle or pasta dishes from the items in the mystery baskets. In the first round, the competitors get ingredients that seem to point them in an Asian direction, then they crank out fresh pasta in round two. The final round has the chefs using their noodles to try to make desserts that fit the theme.

Whiskey and Wings

Whiskey and wings appear in some form in every basket, guaranteeing a good time in each round! A fun starch must also make its way onto the chefs' appetizer plates, then hot sauce is in the mix for round two. Finally, what type of wings will the competitors get in the dessert round?


Since we like to cook — and we hope you do, too — we took the time to sit with some big names in the business to peruse the pages of their cookbooks.

> After you watch these exclusive interviews, be sure to check out our Must-Read Cookbooks for classic recipes.

1. Home Cooking | Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Originally Published: 2011

Even if you don’t have the chance to dine at chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s NYC restaurant Jean-Georges, which has been on GAYOT’s Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S. since the inception of the list, you can still eat Jean-Georges’s cuisine, in the comfort of your own home, with his “casual” cookbook.

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges contains recipes for each meal of the day, including cocktails such as a ginger margarita. There are many photos throughout that help you prepare what Jean-Georges calls “my favorite simple recipes.”

During one of his sojourns to Jean-Georges Beverly Hills at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, one of GAYOT’s 2017 Best New Restaurants in the U.S., we got to sit down with him to discuss his book. Watch the video above — it’s surely the best way to discover it all.

2. The Power of Pasta | Bruno Serato

Publisher: Select Books
Originally Published: 2017

A Man on a Mission

Let’s make a long story short… Back in 1987, Bruno Serato, who hails from Verona, Italy, arrived in California. With $200 in his pocket, his first job was as a dishwasher. He eventually worked his way up through the ranks and became the chef/owner of the Anaheim White House, a 1909 historical landmark located in the city of Anaheim in Orange County, CA.

In 2017, he published his third book, The Power of Pasta: A Celebrity Chef’s Mission to Feed America’s Hungry Children, with a supporting quote from legendary actress Sophia Loren. Two thirds of the book is about his life and the charity he created, Caterina’s Club, which helps provide nutritious meals for underprivileged children. (For his community work, he was honored as one of the 2011 Top 10 CNN Heroes.) The rest of the tome features 43 recipes from his Italian restaurant.

The best way to discover the book is to watch our exclusive video interview with the philanthropic chef.

3. Knife | Chef John Tesar

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Originally Published: 2017

Chef John Tesar’s Knife restaurant is one of GAYOT’s Top 10 Steakhouses in America, so it might surprise you to learn that Tesar received classical French training for seafood!

Later in life, he developed a passion for meat. After a year and a half of traveling the country, going from one steakhouse to another, he felt he was ready to open his own steakhouse in Houston.

His book, Knife, bears the tagline “Texas steakhouse meals at home” on its cover. It’s clear: vegetarians and vegans, move it along (or be satisfied with a few dishes in the chapter on “Salads, Starters & Sides”).

Indulge your carnivorous side throughout the 246 pages, containing 60 recipes and more about beef. Watch our exclusive interview with chef Tesar to learn more about the book.

4. Avec Eric | Eric Ripert

Publisher: Wiley
Originally Published: 2010

When his book was published, we spent time “Avec Eric” in Los Angeles. For those who don’t know, ‘avec’ is French for ‘with,’ and Eric is chef Eric Ripert. He had left his stoves at Le Bernardin restaurant in New York, one of GAYOT.com Top 40 US Restaurants continuously since 2004, so the West Coast could discover his cookbook Avec Eric, based on his TV show Avec Eric.

Besides 100 easy-to-make-at-home recipes, the cookbook is filled with stories taking place in different parts of the U.S. and countries around the globe. Watch my exclusive video interview with chef Ripert to learn more about him. And, yes, ladies, he is as charming as he is good-looking.

Chef Eric Ripert’s cookbook, Avec Eric, reads more like an adventure book organized around principles of cooking rather than a traditional cookbook. The book by the famed toque artfully combines kitchen wisdom, cooking philosophy and regional history to achieve a complete discussion of a menu from start to finish.

Now gone Anthony Bourdain sets the tone for what the reader can expect in the foreword: an introspective and insightful exploration of the ingredients and practices that make not only a great dish, but also a great chef. Ripert lays down his philosophy, which rests on a series of complex and well thought-out principles, in the introduction. “Cooking is how I express myself creatively,” he writes and “Cooking is a holistic process.”

Organized around chapters that represent a cooking journey, his recipes reflect particular principles such as “Star Ingredients,” “Artisanal,” “Craftsmanship” and “Tradition.” Ripert takes the time to stress the importance of these ideals through insightful stories. Based on his experience as an executive chef, his anecdotes are infused with rich imagery of his world travels, conversations with the providers of the best local ingredients, and the cultural and environmental implications of each local ingredient he uses.

The instructions are clear to read. He anticipates any problems a reader might experience while preparing a dish such as herb- and salt-crusted lamb loin pan-roasted Arctic char over black olive potatoes and melted cherry tomatoes or roasted capon with mushroom-truffle stuffing. The photos provide not only visual references for the end product, but also document Ripert’s adventures with portraits and landscapes of the people and places he visits. His holistic approach to cooking is reflected in the emphasis placed on the high quality of the ingredients, the dish as part of a larger menu, and the wine pairing that goes with it.

Avec Eric offers a path to not only creating sophisticated meals with appropriate wine pairings, but also to understanding a deeper and more integrated philosophy of cooking. The combination of tradition, environmentally-aware farmers providing top ingredients, and Ripert’s insight as a master chef, make this book a must-have for any cooking enthusiast looking to get more than just a meal out of their kitchen.

5. Bouchon Bakery | Thomas Keller & Sébastien Rouxel

Publisher: Artisan
Originally Published: 2012

Thomas Keller is the only chef to have two restaurants with GAYOT.com’s highest rating of 19/20: The French Laundry and Per Se.

We had the pleasure to sit with uber-chef Keller at defunct Bouchon Beverly Hills to talk about his dessert book, Bouchon Bakery. Sébastien Rouxel, the book’s co-author and former executive pastry chef of The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, joined the conversation.

We had not seen the book until the three of us flipped through the 400 pages. If you haven’t had a chance to see Keller’s first recipe book for desserts, watch the exclusive video above to discover it the same way we did. Coming from the masters directly, it is surely the best way to do so. The experience was quite fun, and, of course, a sweet moment to remember!

6. Come Early, Stay Late | Brian Malarkey

Publisher: Chefs Press, Inc.
Originally Published: 2012

The “Top Chef“ who is also a judge/mentor on ABC-TV’s The Taste, has been doing a good job since his original restaurant, Searsucker, in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, made GAYOT.com’s 2013 Hot 40 Restaurants in the U.S. The day I dropped by in the middle of the week in low-season, the restaurant was packed.

His restaurants are busy, so if you aren’t able to visit, here’s how to enjoy his dishes in the comfort of your own home. His cookbook “Come Early, Stay Late.”

7. Pinot, Pasta & Parties | Dee Dee & Paul Sorvino

Publisher: Center Street/Hachette
Originally Published: March 2017

When love of food leads you to a cookbook.

Do you picture actor Paul Sorvino? Most of the time he’s the bad guy / gangster in the movie. Well, with his wife, Emmy Award winner Dee Dee, he becomes the good guy in the kitchen. The pair rolled up their sleeves and put together recipes their close circle has been enjoying over the years. A few months later “Pinot, Pasta, and Parties” was ready to print.

This cookbook of easy Italian recipes is divided in ten chapters. Each section has a menu to guide you, as well as many photos, for a full meal whether it’s for a family dinner or a party.

8. The Scarpetta Cookbook | Scott Conant

Publisher: Houghton Milton Harcourt Publishing Company
Originally Published: October 2013

Cooking with Scott Conant.

If you have experienced chef Scott Conant’s cooking at one of his Scarpetta restaurants, chances are that you would like to enjoy some of his dishes in the comfort of your own house.

There are two solutions: you have him come over, but with his busy schedule, it might get very complicated or you simply buy The Scarpetta Cookbook. It features 125 recipes that are easy to make at home so you can enjoy his creative Italian cuisine.

Watch our exclusive video interview with chef Conant, filmed in the beautiful kitchen of the defunct Scarpetta, located in hotel Montage Beverly Hills.

9. In Pursuit of Excellence | Josiah Citrin


Publisher: North Star Media Books
Originally Published: October 2011

After many years of being the chef in his own restaurant, Josiah Citrin of Mélisse in Santa Monica has published his first cookbook: In Pursuit of Excellence. Watch our exclusive video interview with Citrin to learn more about the book from the chef himself.

10. New Taco Classics | Lorena Garcia

Publisher: Celebra
Originally Published: 2015

Lorena Garcia’s take on Latin American cuisine is easy to follow and fun to make.

In her signature fun style, chef Lorena Garcia’s “New Taco Classics” offers healthy and colorful takes on the best street foods of Latin American countries including Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Peru and Cuba. The book is organized by sections including The Base (chapters on masa and beans) The Toppings (a dizzying array of sauces) The Fillings (poultry, pork, seafood, meats, veggies) and The Sides (everything from grilled corn and tostones to avocado fries). It’s a tasty way to learn new twists on the taco concept — that is, food prepared within a shell, or vessel.

11. Taming the Feast | Chef Ben Ford


When a party becomes a real feast.

Chef Ben Ford (Ford’s Filling Station) takes partying to the next level, and he’s become famous for that. Ford prefers the get-together to be a big one. One where you roast a whole pig or serve paella for eighty.

And it seems that he gets a kick out of it even before the cooking starts. In his first book, Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking, he guides you on a complete journey to make your event a success — even the after-party.

Watch our exclusive video interview to discover the book (see the white arrow in the photo gallery above) and get ready for your next gathering with friends and family!

12. Savory Bites: Meals You can Make in Your Cupcake Pan | Hollis Wilder

Publisher: Stewart, Tabori and Chang
Originally Published: 2013

Wild cupcakes that go beyond dessert.

Hollis Wilder is our favorite kind of warrior: the chef is the three-time winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”. If you indulge in her creations like we have, “cupcake” will take on a whole different meaning.

She ingeniously transformed a smoked salmon egg salad into a delicious savory cupcake which helped her win Season 1 in 2009. In 2013, she won Season 8 with her jalapeño popper. She even makes ratatouille cupcakes!

Watch our video interview with her to get an exclusive preview of her book Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan. The cookbook contains ninety nine recipes that will help you achieve savory happiness.

And if you are in Florida, where Wilder hails from, you can visit her two Sweet by Holly stores in Orlando and Jacksonville, where you will find more than 30 different cupcakes… but only sweet ones!


Recipe Summary

  • 3 cups semolina
  • 8 ounces sheep&rsquos milk ricotta, hung in a mesh strainer or cheese cloth for 24 hours
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lobster roe (lobster coral)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped lobster meat
  • 3 tablespoons 00 flour
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons panko
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 ounces cooked lobster meat, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 16 ramp leaves, halved
  • 1/2 cup blanched English peas
  • Snipped chives and trout roe (optional), for garnish

Make the gnudi Spread the semolina in a 9-by-13 inch baking dish. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the ricotta with the mascarpone and lobster roe on medium speed until the mixture is green and no streaks remain, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Using your hands, roll the mixture into 20 small balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and transfer to the baking dish with the semolina. Roll the gnudi in the semolina and transfer the baking dish to the refrigerator and chill, uncovered, overnight.

Make the bagna cauda In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, crushed red pepper, bay leaf and anchovies. Cook over moderate heat until the shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook over moderate heat until the wine is almost reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, pressing on the solids. Season with salt.

In a pot of salted boiling water, boil the gnudi until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. In a large deep sauté pan, warm the bagna cauda. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, gnudi, peas, lobster and ramp leaves and simmer until the sauce is thickened and the gnudi is heated through. Season with salt and transfer to 4 shallow bowls. Garnish with chives and trout roe, if using, and serve.


Conant's dislike for onions has nothing to do with taste

Don't judge chef Conant just yet. The story goes deeper than just a general distaste for raw onions, and to be fair, he's pretty tired of all the negative publicity surrounding this topic. "I've had enough of the red onion jokes for the past three years to last me a lifetime," he told The Food Republic in a conversation. "And not a single one has been funny," he added.

Where did it all begin? As mentioned on Cheatsheet, during an episode of Chopped, as Conant watched other chefs get to work, he told them he's not fond of raw onions. One of the chefs added raw red onions anyway to the dish, which annoyed him, and quickly led to viewers trolling him for his reaction. On a Reddit thread discussing the chef's reaction to onion, one commentator wrote, "Onion is a very common ingredient used in dishes. He shouldn't be a judge if he is that opposed to it." Another stood up for Conant and said that because he made his stance clear, it was best to avoid annoying him considering he was the judge and serve him a dish sans the onions.

Turns out, Conant doesn't actually hate onions, but dislikes the sloppy techniques that are sometimes used to cook them. To clear things up, it's best to refer to what the chef tweeted back in 2017, "For the record. I love onions. I have no problem with them. It's bad technique and/or poorly cooking them that bothers me." So, there you have it, Conant doesn't despise them after all.


How to Prepare Onions the Scott Conant Way

When I met Scott Conant of Food Network's Chopped and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, the first question out of my mouth had to be about the onions. The chef and restaurateur's notorious criticism of raw, red onions is so well-documented that even Facebook runs rampant with pages like, "Shut up, Scott Conant, we don't care if you have an aversion to raw onions!" But Conant wants to set the record straight: he's not raising any stink over red onions.

"I don't hate red onions . . . I have a lot of them on my menu," he explained. "There are big things that get edited out of these [TV] shows. When I explain my thought process on red onions, all too often, what happens is, is that it's not interesting — what's interesting is the reaction."

You heard it from Scott Conant himself: he doesn't dislike onions. A few ways chef Scott likes to prepare onions, when you read more.


Chef Scott Conant: He's Even More Charming in Person

The 10th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival wasn't just an opportunity to catch Rachael Ray cooking in person and chow down on exotic ingredients. It was also a great time to get to know our favorite chefs firsthand.

I was floored by restaurateur and Food Network chef Scott Conant. Not only is the Chopped judge and host of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle a wisecracking barrel of laughs, but he's also incredibly humble.

When I declared his polenta to be "the best polenta I've ever had," he quipped, "Then you need to eat out more." At the Scarpetta Miami bar, he made sure we were settled in with mojitos, then joined us for a chat. For the whole conversation, keep reading.

YumSugar: We love the Scarpetta here. Do you have plans to open any other Scarpettas anywhere else?
Scott Conant: Not in the country no more Scarpettas in the US. One day I would love to entertain the thought of opening something international.
YS: Would you ever consider opening a Scarpetta in Italy?
SC: I would love to! I think a Scarpetta in Rome would work really well. What do you think about that?
YS: I think that would be amazing.
SC: It would be really convenient, because then I could have so many Italian cooks in the restaurants. It would work really well.
YS: Speaking of which, what upcoming project are you most excited about?
SC: I have two books currently I'm in the process of doing my third. I just finished my second season of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, which I'm super excited about. Chopped was just picked up for three more seasons. We're shooting pretty soon. The big thing on my plate is that I'm starting an office in New York City. I just took 4,000 square feet on the ninth floor of a building in SoHo. I'm building a kitchen where I can do some events off the premise private events. I'll call it the SCM Hospitality Suite — that's the name of my company. It's also a development kitchen. We can test recipes, we can make all the set recipes for the books, I can do photo shoots there, I can do video for, uh . . .
YS: For YumSugar?
SC: Video for YumSugar! I can do all sorts of things there.
YS: Where do you eat in New York when you aren't at Scarpetta?
SC: I love Eleven Madison Park. It's one of my favorite restaurants. I really, really like Aldea, with George Mendes. Spectacular. There's so many good restaurants. I went to Torrisi the other day. These guys are just cooking good food. There's a very humble approach.
YS: Who's your biggest Italian competition?
SC: I think that the range of Italy is so vast and so big. It's a big space to live in. I don't see it as a lot of competition. It's just a big pool. Good [answer], right?
YS: What's your advice for people who love food, but claim they don't have time to cook?
SC: If you want to cook at home, cook at home. If you don't want to cook at home, that's why there's restaurants. You're not gonna get a complaint from me I need those people! My tip if you don't like to cook at home would be: make reservations!
YS: Is there any culinary trend that you've tired of?
SC: It's probably the cupcake thing. I just don't get it. And now cupcakes are taking on a savory thing. Whatever, it's all good.
YS: What's the most important cooking tip you've ever learned?
SC: For me, seasoning — salting — the water properly for pasta. I do it like the way my mother taught it: season it like it's a broth. Some people season it like it's the ocean I think that's too salty.
YS: Tell us your guilty pleasure food.
SC: Reduced-fat Extra Chunky Skippy Peanut Butter. They cut down on the fat but I think they add more sugar.
YS: How do you navigate through Burger Bash? What's your strategy?
SC: I hate to say this, but I've never been to Burger Bash. I have work to do, ladies! This isn't a party time for Scotty. I'm not at that point in my career yet!


Top Chef Interview: 10 Minutes With Scott Conant

He may have six renowned restaurants around North America -- including Scarpetta in Toronto's Thompson Hotel -- but there's one grocery store staple Scott Conant can't stop snacking on when he's home alone. We snagged 10 minutes with Conant at a Barilla World Pasta Day event to find out what his foodie weaknesses are as well as the meal he's most proud of cooking (a dish so simple, you may be surprised).

How did you get started cooking at only 11 years old?

I was a chubby kid [laughing], and a group of friends and I took to it together. Now it's a little more common, a lot of kids tell me they want to take cooking classes. First thing I learned how to cook was an apple pie -- not a very good apple pie [mind you].

Food was a big part of growing up, though?

Yes. My mother's side of the family is Italian my grandparents had a huge garden.

If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing?

I have no idea. I'm too old to be a baseball player at this point! It's hard to say. One thing that’s really interesting is probably marketing. It's fun and interesting and you have to think about things in a different way. There's a component of that within the restaurants I have.

What are five things you always have in your kitchen?

I live in Manhattan so the five things you can always find that are food-related are takeout menus! But now I have a 20-month-old, so my wife is always cooking for her. We always have some sort of lettuce -- butter lettuce, radicchio, something like that -- and avocado. A big chunk of Parmesan cheese, coconut water and I always have Billecart-Salmon Rose Champagne.

What do you like to eat after a long night at the restaurant?

I'm a real sucker for a chicken cutlet -- like a sandwich with a chicken cutlet, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise. It's not that interesting, actually, I wish it were. I wish I could say "I have to stop and get Korean food!" but not so much.

If you were to host an ultimate dinner party, which three guests would you invite?

Abraham Lincoln. He's a very interesting historical character in American history who really found a balance in his presidency. He was just elected to his second term when he was killed the fact he kept the country together, he pursued an agenda that wasn't necessarily what he started with, and he moved the country in a different direction -- he almost did things that were completely illegal in order to do the right thing. He had such integrity.

Also, Gandhi, for obvious reasons -- a lot of goodness.

I could invite dozens more: Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King Jr., great historical figures.

Do you listen to music when you cook?

I'm a big Dylan fan, I listen to Dylan when I need to relax or when I'm really thinking about things related to food or business, anything really. Business is all kinds of new to me -- the last five years I've really taken on different roles in my life. I always find myself listening to Dylan when I need that little bit of inspiration.

What's the most memorable meal you've made? What's one you've enjoyed?

Let’s see. I have been fortunate enough to cook for so many different people. But I have to say the first solid food my daughter ever ate -- she had white turnips, pureed. My wife was like, "That's disgusting, how can you give to her?" Yet, she ate the dish and loved it -- she kept asking for more. It was cutest thing in the world.

As for the most memorable meal I’ve ever shared, it’s hard. There are so many great restaurants, so many great experiences and sometimes you don't realize how memorable and wonderful they are until years later. Like watching my grandfather eat a bowl of pasta happened many times in my life, but it's more memorable now.

When you’re home alone, what’s your guilty food pleasure?

Extra chunky, reduced fat Skippy peanut butter. I think it has less fat, but more sugar. I will sit and eat half a jar of the stuff with a knife. It’s horrible. The texture of it and the flavour of it, I just love the stuff -- I can’t have it in the house.