2016 San Francisco Rising Star Butcher Salvatore Cracco of Trou Normand

2016 San Francisco Rising Star Butcher Salvatore Cracco of Trou Normand
May 2016

Trou Normand
140 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco , CA 94105



Salvatore Cracco grew up in his father's Italian restaurants in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where by six, he was already proving his chops. However, Cracco aimed to become a doctor and began taking premed classes at the community college where his mother worked. 

But the call of the kitchen lured him back and Cracco enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu outside Minneapolis, graduating in 2003. While working at The Breakers Palm Beach, the in-house butcher shop provided his first introduction to whole-animal butchery. Cracco then moved to Chicago, and landed a job cooking at Blackbird where he gained experience curing and fermenting. In 2006, after staging at WD-50 and at a butcher shop in Italy, Cracco and his wife, a California native he met at Blackbird, moved to the Bay Area.

He quickly found a home in Oakland with Jon Smulewitz at Adesso, whom Cracco credits with teaching him the art of butchering and curing meats. Cracco went on to take charge of Bar Agricole’s butchery program before opening spinoff Trou Normand as executive chef in 2014. The downtown restaurant, named as one of the top 100 restaurants in San Francisco by San Francisco Magazine in 2015, isn’t just a showcase for Cracco’s nose to tail cooking; the chef also runs a state-licensed meat processing facility on site where his authority supersedes that of the local health inspector. The certification allows Cracco to offer the city an unending catalogue of charcuterie sourced from six organic farms within three hours of the restaurant.

Interview with San Francisco Rising Star Salvatore Cracco of Trou Normand

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start? 
Salvatore Cracco:
My family has owned restaurants in Iowa since I was 4, and I've been helping out since I was 6, which made me not want to cook. I wanted to go to med school, so I started taking classes at the community college where my mom worked. But I ended up enrolling in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu outside of Minneapolis. I graduated in 2003 and got my first job at a family-style Italian restaurant and pizzeria. 

SK: What have been your formative restaurant experiences?
Bar Agricole and Blackbird. I also admire Jon Smulewitz, the man who taught me how to butcher and cure meats at Dopo in Oakland. 

SK: What are your best charcuterie resources?: 
Books and travel. I read a lot of books by meat scientists, written by chemists for large scale industrial meat plants—by scientist for scientists—on how to utilize products better and understand the science behind everything. That’s how I developed our system here and put it into practice.  

SK: What are your most important butchering rules?
When butchering, the golden rule is always move the meat, not your body. And for curing: always use percentages, and the controlling of air inside and outside of the product.

SK: What’s your most important butchery tool, and tool you wish you had here?
My deba, a Japanese fish knife I bought in japan while on vacation. And I wish I had a bandsaw.  

SK: What’s your favorite charcuterie that you’ve ever made?
Prosciutto, hands down. It’s my 21-month aged pork leg—just sea salt and Cure #2. But we have more than 100 salami recipes alone; 100 to 250 recipes total, and 39 items total at any given time on the menu. 

SK: Favorite breed of pig?
For charcuterie, the Mangalitsa. The quality of the fat and the diet of the pigs makes the most fantastic cured meats. The flavor is clean and light on the palate and lets the meat shine through. We source from Riverdog Farm. They raise pigs to grow to a specific size for us, larger than average for a restaurant because we make so much charcuterie from them. 

SK: Where would you most like to visit for culinary travel?
Spain. They have a wonderful history of charcuterie. I am not as well versed in Spanish meats, so I would love to go experience it first hand.

SK: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Always ask questions, and hold true to your principles.