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Scott Conant, 'Chopped' Judge And Scarpetta Owner, Says TV Raises Stakes For Chefs

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SCOTT CONANT
Chef Scott Conant is seen during an interview outside the New York City Wine and Food Festival, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff) | AP

NEW YORK -- Television has changed not just the way Americans see food, but also how restaurateurs must deliver it, says Food Network star Scott Conant.

Conant, who has spent his career reinventing classic Italian dishes, most recently at his Scarpetta restaurants in New York and elsewhere, said Friday that TV is unmatched in its ability to help chefs reach consumers. But it also has accelerated our cultural dialogue about food, forcing chefs to keep pace and work harder to stay relevant.

"It's such a simple thing to say, but it's an incredibly difficult thing to do," Conant said at the New York City Wine and Food Festival.

He lauds chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, whom he credits with staying on top of food culture for so long.

"This guy's a genius. Here's a guy who has remained relevant for 30 years," Conant said. "He has stayed on the cusp the entire time."

Staying relevant also means looking beyond the plate, added Conant, a judge on Food Network's "Chopped."

"For me, it's a third of the experience," that must also be balanced by environment and hospitality, he said.

Conant said a TV show is not necessarily a requirement for being a successful chef today, but today's media environment has made it more important than ever before.

Of course, food media saturation also has its challenges for people who make a living feeding people. Dealing with mean-spirited posts online is among those.

"There's definitely a microscope that we're under and everyone has an opinion," he said. "Everyone deserves their opinion. But I don't necessarily believe everyone should have a platform for their opinions."

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