The 10 Dishes That Made My Career: Chris Cosentino

The Top Chef Masters winner discusses the joys of offal, meals at St. John, and his Rhode Island childhood.

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Head shot courtesy Chris Cosentino; dish shot by Michael Harlan Turkell.

Chris Cosentino, the chef of San Francisco's Incanto, has made a name for himself as a master of offal, transforming meaty odds and ends like beef heart, pig's trotters, and tripe into culinary gold, and launching a sausage line under the name Boccalone: Tasty Salted Pig Parts. His Twitter feed (@offalchris) unfurls as a running homage to organ meats and animal extremities (photos not for the faint of heart), and his way around the butcher block has earned Cosentino a winning title on Top Chef Masters, a well-received cookbook, and a deal with Marvel to help pen a new Wolverine comic.

But before the accolades and the nose-to-tail philosophizing, Cosentino was a Rhode Island kid in a close-knit Italian-American family, clamming on the beach with his bare hands and ardently avoiding his grandmother’s Neapolitan tripe. A stint at Johnson & Wales culinary school gave Cosentino his first brush with culinary greatness, in the form of a radish sandwich, which paved the way for his work later with legends like Jean-Louis Palladin.

To this day, a sense of old-school respect for the craft inflects Cosentino’s style. “In every chef you can see some of what they’ve experienced in the past, or pick out techniques that have been developed by someone else. Giving credit to my culinary elders has always been very important to me,” Cosentino explains.

To that end, he maintains an encyclopedic knowledge of food history (“Did you know cocktail sauce was originally invented to mask the taste of rancid oysters?”) and talks in almost academic detail about his mentors and cooking philosophy: “Food is a very powerful medium. Some people say it’s art, some say it’s sustenance. For me, it’s everything. But it should always be joyous and fun.”

Here, Cosentino breaks down the ten dishes that have influenced and defined his career, from an obscure Tuscan stew to the foie-filled creations that later became his signature.

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  • Randy Erickson

    Tobacco and oysters. I love the concept. Grandpa was cool before it was cool to be cool.

    • Julie Helton

      ewww

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