Chris Cosentino, NAIT 2013 Hokanson Chef in Residence

Chris Cosentino06Chris Cosentino is known for his love of pig, whole animal cooking, offal and single speed mountain bike racing.

His San Francisco restaurant Incanto holds pig dinners several times a year. Boccalone, in SF’s Ferry Building, specializes in Italian-style artisan salumeria, but it’s vegetables that chef Cosentino chose to feature in his first cookbook. Beginnings: My Way to Start a Meal is filled with sketches and stories, a section on how to buy cheese and 59 recipes ranging from rustic to contemporary, always with a seasonal focus.

Chef Cosentino spent a week with NAIT’s culinary students, sharing his well-honed, busy kitchen-tested techniques, extensive knowledge and the philosophy of nothing left behind — or rooter to tooter cooking as he calls it.

The Hokanson Chef in Residence program is made possible through a generous donation from John and Susan Hokanson. Previous chefs in residence include Rob Feenie, Susur Lee and Massimo Capra.


Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Years cooking?

I started dishwashing at 15, does that count?

Where would you like to live?

I love where I’m living now, but there are a lot of beautiful places: Japan, because of their attention to culinary detail; food is a way of life there. Spain is all about food; Barcelona is amazing.

Your favourite food and drink?

I love oysters and radishes. I really like crisp and refreshing dry white wines. And I drink pink — mostly Italian — and beer, Anchor Steam.

What would you be doing if you weren’t cooking?

I would have been a professional cyclist.

What do you most appreciate in your friends?


Your favourite qualities in a dish?

Balance — that is, has freshness and acidity.

A cook?

Eager, passionate and dedicated.

A wine?

Food-friendly wines that enhance the food.

Who would be at your dream dinner table (dead or alive)?

Bill Murray, Escoffier.

Who would cook?


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

You probably don’t want to know those. I’m trying to learn the power of no, as I say yes to too many things.

Current culinary obsession/exploration?

At Incanto? Always obsessed with trying to make ourselves better and focusing on conviviality and fun. If it’s not fun, it shows in the food. It’s not hospitality.

Meaningful/crazy cooking experience?

I’ve had a lot of experiences. I’ve staged at different restaurants; had a door slammed in my face by Marco Pierre White; cooked in the dark with no hood; made a dinner for Ben Harper in Napa where he sang acoustic.

But the opportunity to compete on Top Chef Masters and win for the Michael J. Fox Foundation — to be able to hand a cheque to a charity where 93 cents of every dollar goes to research — that is the most meaningful.

Best (cooking) thing that ever happened to you?

Jean Louis Palladin was a very important man to me. The hardest thing I have ever done was say no to a sous chef position at his restaurant in Las Vegas. I had just moved to California and didn’t want to move there. He died the next year. Sometimes it’s the worst things that have the biggest effect.


Mark Miller taught me to cook from history; Tracy Des Jardin taught me to appreciate California; Fergus Henderson, the importance of simplicity and offal; and Jean Louis Paladin taught me to cook for what I believe in.

Favourite casual, cheap and cheerful after work food?

I get home at two in the morning — I don’t have that.


I cook because I want to make people happy. I want people to be able to cook, to not be afraid to cook; it’s just food. I want to cook with products that are raised and handled properly, so when I get home I can look myself in the mirror. That’s why using the whole animal matters.

What’s next?

I have a Marvel comic book coming out in July, Wolverine. The Shun Blue Steel Japanese knives (four knives: menkiri, chefs, poultry and general butchery) just launched with Williams-Sonoma.