Scott Conant doesn’t cook as much as he used to. You can’t blame the guy — he’s full-blown famous and well deserving of a few quiet nights at home. Besides, the modern restaurant scene isn’t built to support chefs staying on the line forever. Brand expansion is the only way to make a steady living. The fact is, the night-in-night-out grind is a young person’s game; it’s a pre-kids, pre-mortgage gig.
That’s not to say that Conant has stopped cooking altogether. Chopped, where the chef is a longtime judge, is easy to work around — they shoot in waves and release the episodes out over the course of months. When the cameras stop rolling, the 46-year-old Connecticut native cooks at private events and Hollywood galas. Every time a property opens with his name on the marquee, he’ll do a stint in the kitchen to set the tone.
Point being, the man still cooks… just a little less often. And for richer people.
“Justin Timberlake was in last night,” Conant tells me over the phone, underscoring this point. “He walked in the kitchen like, ‘Hey Scott, make me one of those spaghettis, it’s my favorite thing in the world.’ I’m like, ‘I’ll make it but I’m not gonna teach you because then you’d be a quadruple threat. We don’t need that.'”
Sitting at my desk, a spot which is routinely devoid of Justin Timberlake, it would be easy to see this anecdote as a name drop, but Conant is just a wildly successful dude telling the sort of story that wildly successful dudes have an excess of. A minute later, it trickles out that he’s actually driving to Willie Nelson’s ranch while answering my questions. Not bad work, if you can get it.
“So you’re still finding some time to cook,” I say.
“It’s literally my first passion,” Conant answers, “but I think the benefit for me, over time, has been that my job has evolved. Honestly, I can’t imagine a worse prison sentence than to be in one restaurant for the rest of my life, just shackled to the stove in one place. I would wanna gouge my eyes out.”