When he was a struggling line cook at New York’s San Domenico restaurant, Scott Conant had to share an apartment with five other guys. There were times when he was actually broke.
Today, Conant’s SCM Hospitality runs five Scarpetta restaurants, where he is the chef-owner. He’s also a judge on the Food Network’s “Chopped” -- and a clotheshorse.
He owns Ermenegildo Zegna suits, Prada (1913) shoes and designer cowboy boots. The Waterbury, Connecticut native often wears a Cartier Roadster watch, and when he goes casual, he slips into AG jeans by Adriano Goldschmied.
At his loft-like test kitchen in Manhattan’s SoHo district, Conant talked about his dress code, impulse buys and the shoe problem.
Cole: You were wearing cowboy boots in the kitchen of Scarpetta in Beverly Hills the first time we met, and my reaction was, “Ouch!” Your feet must hurt in them after a hard day’s work.
Conant: They’re really comfortable and they have a lot of miles on them. You know what cowboy boots are good for? You can dress them up and you can dress them down, but I’m not going to wear them with a suit because I’m not from Texas.
Cole: What are your other preferences?
Conant: I happen to love Italian suits. I like to dress up, but I also like to be comfortable at the same time. I wear Prada shoes when I dress up because they have among the most comfortable shoes.
Cole: How many suits do you have?
Conant: About 40 or 50, and I love Zegna. I love custom-made suits and shirts as well. Once you wear a custom-made shirt, it’s almost impossible to go back. It’s like flying first-class and going back to economy. You’re ruined.
Cole: How many pairs of shoes do you have?
Conant: I have a crazy thing for boots and shoes, so I have quite a few pairs. I don’t know how many anymore. I have more clothes than my wife has. It is an issue.
Cole: You don’t wear a tie on “Chopped” usually. This is the first time I’ve seen you in a tie.
Conant: This is a Valentino tie. I also like Varvatos and Armani ties. Kitty Boots, the stylist at the Food Network, very often doesn’t let me wear a tie. Sometimes I overrule her, and sometimes she overrules me.
Cole: Has Giorgio Armani ever come into your restaurant?
Conant: He did, and he criticized my spaghetti. That was about three years ago. He had an opinion. Everyone has an opinion.
Cole: Tell me about the watch.
Conant: It’s a Cartier Roadster. I was in Paris last summer and got stuck there during Hurricane Irene, a hell of a place to be stuck. That trip cost me a lot more than it was supposed to. I wanted that watch for years.
Cole: Are socks important to you?
Conant: These are blue, from Barneys New York. I’m not one of these guys who has florescent green socks, I’m not that quirky. Years of therapy have gotten the quirkiness out of me.
Cole: In the kitchen, you sometimes wear a black chef’s jacket.
Conant: I have a white one and a black one. It’s like good and evil. It depends on my personality that day. It depends on how much of a hammer I need to drop in the kitchen.
(Patrick Cole is a reporter for Muse, the arts and culture team of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
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