By Anne Marie O’Connor
Scott Conant knows it sounds “woo-woo” when he says he puts positive energy into the food he cooks. “So I want to be cautious saying that, because I don’t want to sound like Tom Cruise when he’s going off on Oprah!” says the chef, whose newest venture, Fusco, an upscale, new-school Italian restaurant, is in the Flatiron District. But he believes that positive energy and good vibrations have a profound effect on the food you cook (a theory known in wellness circles as high-vibrational cooking).
“I’ve done a lot of energy and spiritual work, and one of the main takeaways is that energy is an important aspect of our life,” he explains. He tries to meditate daily, does yoga whenever he can and always wears at least a couple Awaken the Peace bracelets, which have gemstones said to attract good vibes and repel negative ones. (He owns 50 of them.) For him, generating positive energy means “surrounding yourself with positive people, creating a positive environment, and instead of focusing on negative things in a conversation, focusing on the opportunities inside it.”
Adds Conant, “It’s my intention to always have that positivity with the food I cook as well.” And he believes that guests at his restaurants (including Mora Italian in Phoenix and The Ponte in Los Angeles) can sense that when they dine there. “I’m always trying to surround myself with the most positive team, because that has a direct effect on the food we’re cooking.”
In his latest project, an online pasta-making master class he developed for craftsy.com, he describes the process of cooking as a sort of meditation, even a spiritual practice. “When I’m in the moment of cooking, everything else goes away,” he says. “I’ve read a lot about Buddhist monks and how, during meditation, they feel like time stops. And that has literally happened to me while I’ve cooked.”
He believes that even nonprofessionals can experience the same transcendence when cooking at home. Of course, starting with fresh, clean ingredients is key. “I also think it’s important to just be present with your food,” he says. “Then watch the transformation of the food while you’re cooking it, whether you’re sautéing something or boiling something. See how the flavors intermingle. Be cognizant of what you’re building, of what you’re eventually going to consume.”
Showing gratitude for the food, and for your life, is also vital. “It’s really hard, but important, to take yourself out of the minutiae and insanity, especially with life in New York, and say, ‘I have a pretty good life and I’m blessed.’”
Finally, a little indulgence is essential. “I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that indulgence makes us happy as well. Everything in moderation, even moderation.”