Watching someone eat offal for the first time in his restaurant Incanto or his salumi Boccolone provides him with a certain satisfaction, “It’s great to see someone change their opinion about something they initially felt was a horrible thing. Most of the time customers have a bad perception of offal because of a past experience where it was not cooked properly or was not fresh,” said Chef Cosentino. “So when you serve offal in all its glory, cooked properly, people are usually very excited at how good it can be. To see the look of hesitation when they first get the dish turn into a smile and then to see clean plate tells me I have done my job.”
Chef Cosentino’s favorite part of the pig? “I love pig’s feet. They are delicious, rich and unctuous. They can be served so many different ways. Whenever I am out to eat, I like to order pig’s feed to see what other chefs like to do with them.”
One of the most important aspects of properly cooking offal is being able to acquire fresh animals and fresh fruits and vegetables. Being located in San Francisco is a key factor in his success, “being in San Francisco has given me access to great small ranchers, which in turn provides me with some of the best animals and produce around. The local farmers become like family; we now work together to find new varieties of vegetables and different stages to serve them. The fact that everything is so close makes things a bit easier.”
As much as Chef Cosentino loves San Francisco he does have other favorite “food” cities, “there are so many great food cities. I love going to New York and Chicago. New York is always pushing the limits of design and food and Chicago is a meat lover’s town, which is near and dear to my heart.”
Chef Cosentino’s history as a chef starts at a young age cranking the handle of his great-grandmother’s pasta machine in her kitchen. He was raised in Rhode Island where he was raised on a fusion of typical New England Yankee fare and classic Italian cooking.
His family has a rich food tradition. His maternal ancestor’s, the Easton’s founded the Easton Sausage Company. Founded in 1860 in Newport, Rhode Island the Easton Sausage company was well known on the Eastern Seaboard for their quality sausage. In 1942 they closed their doors due to a shortage of quality spices. Recently Chris fulfilled what he calls his greatest food achievement by “keeping a promise to my grandparents and brining back Easton’s breakfast sausage from the original family recipe.”
Whether it was cooking in his great-grandmother’s kitchen or the kitchen of Red Sage in Washington DC after his graduation from Johnson and Wales University other chefs have played an important part in his success. Chris lists Marco Pierre White, Fergus Henderson and Martin Picard as inspirations. However, Mark Miller was his most impactful food mentor: “All of the chefs I have worked for have been impactful, but Mark Miller was the first chef I trained under and an amazing teacher. He has also been my harshest critic over the years. He taught me that knowledge is power when it comes to food. And I’ve learned from him that examining history allows me to properly build dishes that make sense.”
“I admire all chefs who put their heads down and works. This is a hard job and it takes a certain type of person to “marry” the kitchen. My hats is off to all chefs who have committed themselves to the stove. I have a lot of admiration for Daniel Patterson of Coi (San Francisco) and David Chang of Momofuku (New York). Each of us, in our own way, has chosen to follow the beat of a different drum,” he said.
Many of Chef Chris Cosentino’s patrons would agree that he has mastered the art of following the beat of a different drum.
(If you’d like to read more about Chef Cosentino take a look at In To The Flames, a new blog from my friend Rob.