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Chris Cosentino
INCANTO
1550 Church St.
San Francisco
(415) 641-4500

Biography »

Interview:
Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Chris Cosentino: When I was a kid, my parents got divorced and my mom worked, so I went to visit my grandmother, who was originally from Naples. My mother’s family made sausages and everything revolved around food, although no one had ever worked in a restaurant. Also, I was a lackluster student and was much better with my hands. The kitchen gave me a way to learn without books.

AB: Do you feel that attending Johnson & Wales University was important to the development of your skills as a chef? Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs?
CC: Johnson & Wales gave me focus and direction. I went from being a student to a teacher’s assistant in my second two years, which is when I received a B.S in Foodservice Management. School has gotten very expensive though. With school you get what you put in – otherwise it is just a party atmosphere. 75% of culinary school graduates I get are non-trainable. They lack basic skills. They all want to be TV chefs as fast as they can.

AB: Who are your mentors and what are some of the most important things you’ve learned from them?
CC: Jean Louis Palladin told me, “Never cook for a reviewer, cook for yourself.” I have a lot of respect for Tom Colicchio. I’ve never worked for him, but I respect his passion

AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
CC: I believe that everyone deserves to eat well, not just rich people. I also believe in sustainable eating. It’s about using everything; eat the radishes, eat the greens, kill the animal and use all its parts. We filter and carbonate our own water.

AB: Are there any secret ingredients that you especially like?
CC: Innards –they are the most under-utilized ingredients there are because most people are afraid of them. It all comes back to sustainable eating.

AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
CC: There are a slew of Japanese knives I can’t live without - Mac, Masahiro, and Misono. I also had an old-fashioned peppermill, a Penzey Spice, but I lost it at the Beard House.

AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
CC: Here are the questions I ask:

Why are you interested in working at Incanto? What inspires you to cook? What is your most memorable meal and why? What are your goals for the next year? What chef do you look up to and why? What is your favorite cookbook? What do you cook at home?

AB: What tips would you offer young cooks just getting started?
CC: Shut up and listen. Don’t ever take anything personally. Criticism isn’t a personal attack.

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Chris Cosentino
INCANTO | San Francisco

Daredevil mountain biker by day, Rising Star Chef by night, Chris Cosentino has been at the helm of Incanto’s kitchen since 2003. His daytime antics landed him a separated shoulder and arm in a sling earlier this summer, but that hasn’t stopped Cosentino from his nightly achievements. This Johnson & Wales graduate got his early start at two notable D.C. restaurants - Mark Miller’s Red Sage and Kinkead’s - before moving to San Francisco to work at Rubicon, Chez Panisse, Belon and Aqua. At Incanto, Cosentino’s hearty Italian dishes reflect his philosophy of using all of his ingredients, from snout to tail! His signature dish, Florentine-style tripe and trotters with tomato and rosemary, is classic comfort food at its best. Drawing on techniques learned from his grandparents and their Italian ancestors, Cosentino makes the restaurant’s red wine vinegar from scratch and cures his own guanciale, pancetta, and lardo.

 

Octopus Crudo with Smoked Salt and Marjoram
Chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto – San Francisco, CA
Adapted by StarChefs.com

Yield: 8 Appetizer Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 each fresh octopus
  • 4 sour oranges
  • 5 sprigs fresh marjoram, leaves separated
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse smoked salt
  • Splash of Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil

Method:

Once the octopus is cleaned of beak, eyes and innards, rinse with cold water to remove any ink that may have leaked onto the flesh while cleaning. In a non-reactive stock pot bring salted water to a boil, and then blanch the octopus for 1 minute, remove and shock in salted ice water.

Once cool remove from the water and stuff the octopus into a plastic wrap casing (see below), forcing out as many air pockets as possible. Tie the end of the casing tight and place into the freezer until frozen. It is best to sit overnight. (Freezing the meat will allow you to slice it paper-thin on the meat slicer safely.)

While the meat is freezing, zest and juice the sour oranges and set both aside.

Using a meat slicer, slice the octopus into paper-thin slices and place them down on a chilled large dinner plate. Use about 6 slices to cover the plate. Season the sliced octopus with smoked salt and coarse ground pepper, then dress with the sour orange juice and extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with the orange zest and a sprinkle of marjoram leaves. Serve immediately. (If this dish is not served immediately, the sour orange will cook the meat and change the flavor and texture of the dish.)

    Plastic casing:
  • 1 750ml wine bottle
  • 1 sheet parchment paper
  • 1 piece tape
  • Plastic wrap
  • 2 pieces butcher’s twine

Wrap the bottle with the parchment paper tightly; secure it to itself with the tape. Then take the plastic wrap and roll it over the bottle multiples times to create a thick plastic tube. Be sure not to have the plastic touch the bottle or you will not be able to separate it and will have to start over. Once the tube is thick enough (about 15 full turns), pull the parchment paper and the plastic tube will slide off the bottle. Secure one end with the butcher’s twine and you have your casing.

 

Wine Pairing:
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs

 

Interview Cont'd
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
CC: The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall (a whole new approach to looking at meat) and the Time Life Series of Variety Meats (1974) edited by Richard Olney (the only book to date that demystifies organs).

AB: What cities do you like for culinary travel?
CC: London – everything is a one-hour plane ride away. I could call a farmer and get a 12 pound, acorn-fed baby black pig .

AB: What are your favorite restaurants off-the-beaten-path in San Francisco?
CC: Pho tu do Noodle House on Clement Street, and Azteca Tacqueria. Slow Club has the best burgers - Sante Salvoni is the chef.

AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
CC: I see “to-go” becoming a permanent service by restaurants. Food is getting wackier and wackier. I love New York because no one is ever afraid; no holds barred – they go for it! Doing something different is okay.

AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
CC: I’d love to own my own restaurant. I hope for a better life for my son, although I wouldn’t trade my world for anything.


   Published: October 2005

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