Chris Cosentino is an American chef noted for his specialty, offal dishes, now considered haute cuisine by many and his eco-consciousness. He is executive chef at Incanto in San Francisco. He was a competitor on The Next Iron Chef and has appeared on Iron Chef America. He is currently writing a book on offal cookery, and he maintains an offal-themed website, Offal Good. Forbes Traveler calls Incanto "perhaps America’s most adventurous nose-to-tail restaurant . . . . On offer are lamb’s necks, pig trotters and a five-course nose-to-tail tasting menu perhaps including venison kidneys and chocolate-blood panna cotta."
edit this info
Chris was raised in Rhode Island and is a 1994 graduate of Johnson & Wales University. Raised in an Italian community, he has stated that he hated offal as a child, especially the tripe his Italian grandmother prepared. Since becoming a chef himself, however, he has embraced a 'whole animal' ethic. He explains, "What I try to do is make people understand a whole-animal ethic. When people realize that this is a whole animal, that there is more than just the skeletal meats, sometimes that makes people step back, and they might not order any meat. They might have a vegetable entrée. Putting a face on what you’re eating sometimes opens your eyes a lot."
Cosentino worked at Mark Miller’s Red Sage and later at Kinkead’s, in Washington, D.C.. He then moved to San Francisco's Rubicon, which is owned by Francis Ford Coppola, Robin Williams, and Robert De Niro. He went on to work at several prestigious restaurants such as the Coach House in Martha’s Vineyard, and, in the San Francisco area, Chez Panisse and Belon. He was then hired as a consultant to the Aqua restaurant group. While working with them, he opened several restaurants, including the highly acclaimed Nobhill at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
Since 2002, Cosentino has worked at San Francisco's Incanto, in Noe Valley, serving as the executive chef. Reviewers in the area noticed a definite upturn in the food quality at Incanto after Cosentino took over. Working with owner Mark Pastore, he has created a rustic Italian menu that includes all cuts of meat, the whole animal or whole fish, including what would usually be discarded or used as an ingredient in animal feed. Chitterlings would be an example of the kind of food he uses, one which is more familiar to the general public than some examples. In 2007 they had their fourth annual "Head-to-Tail Dinner."
In fall, 2007, Chris started selling sausage under the name Boccalone: Tasty Salted Pig Parts. This new line was a natural outgrowth from family tradition, because his mother's family, named Easton, founded Newport’s Easton’s Sausage Company, a company which developed a very devoted clientele. Under Chris's direction Incanto has launched a charcuterie selection, all selections cured in-house, and ranging from mortadella to fennel salame, including even a sweetbread terrine. There is also a salt-cured pork liver with especially intense flavor. This effort is based on the community-supported agriculture (CSA) concept in which providing locally grown produce is the focus. Chris credits the late chef Jean-Louis Palladin with teaching him never to cook for reviews, but for the diners and for himself. Palladin was an avid hunter and taught Chris to be realistic and respectful about the fate of an animal going from the farmyard or the forest to the dinnerplate.
Starting in October, 2007, he was a contestant on The Next Iron Chef, competing with erstwhile mentor at Rubicon, Traci Des Jardins, who is still a close friend. By the third episode, his cooking style had emerged distinctly enough that, when Michael Symon gave him squab as a secret ingredient, his first action was to check the cavities for offal. It was implied that Symon had removed the innards; when Cosentino discovered this, Symon quipped, "No guts, no glory." He was the last chef eliminated before the final battle, being eliminated in Episode 7, 'Lead and Inspire'. In November 2007, he was featured at the end of a Modern Marvels pig episode, in which he showed his expertise in cooking pig brain.
He considers single-varietal extra-virgin olive oils, each having a distinct flavor, his culinary secret weapon. His involvement with local farmers' markets has enabled him to develop close relationships with local food producers, relationships which are very important to him and allow him to be involved in the production and butchering of meat he uses and of other ingredients in his many specialties. He has been especially dedicated to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market.
In his spare time he cycles on some very rugged Northern California mountain biking trails on a one-speed, does endurance rides, and spends time with his wife and young son.