Offal Good™ » Resources Chef Chris Cosentino's guide to all good guts. Thu, 07 Mar 2013 00:20:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Head 2 Tail 5.0 stages Thu, 07 Mar 2013 00:20:01 +0000 Chris

This decision each year gets harder and harder. There was not one bad person in the bunch so it made this years decision even harder. I look forward to welcoming this years 2 new stages in my Kitchen. Thank you all for applying I wish everyone all the best, I wish I could accept more there is just not enough room.

the 2 stages are:

Elias Seda from Washington D.C  The Mini Bar

Andrew Ticer from Memphis, TN  Hogs & Hominy

Both of there essays are below with there names at the top of each.

Elias Seda’s essay below:

When I was growing up all I wanted was to make people happy through the power of food.

There was nothing more satisfying than watching people’s delight in sampling one of my culinary


Family gatherings were always a treat because I was able to watch all these great chefs work their

magic in the kitchen. My attraction to cooking was due to the respect these family cooks earned,

the knowledge they had acquired and the simplicity of their food. I was intrigued by the power they

wielded over people through their cooking and it inspired me to pursue my culinary career with hopes

that I could make people just as happy through my cooking.

After graduating from high school I took a year off from my studies because I had no idea what

to do with my life. With that free time I reflected back on my time cooking with family and how I was at

my happiest when I was working in the kitchen with them. So I decided to get a kitchen job, but I had no

experience as a cook so I started at the bottom as a dishwasher. It didn’t matter that I was just washing

dishes because I knew that as long as I found my way into a kitchen there would be an opportunity to

learn something about food and cooking. The next step to continue to feed my passion for cooking was

culinary school. It provided me with some of the beginning tools in becoming the best chef I could

possibly be. Around this time I was introduced to my future chef and friend Omar Rodriguez. He

provided me an opportunity to intern at Oyamel, a Jose Andres restaurant, in Washington, DC. I

instantly fell in love with Oyamel and I wanted to learn everything about Mexican cuisine. My goal as an

intern was to master what it took to be a great line cook and hopefully land myself a full time job at

Oyamel. After three months I landed myself a full time job and within a year I had achieved my goal of

learning all the stations on the line. Even with my success at Oyamel I still yearned to learn more about

cooking and wanted to continue to master my craft.

So the following year I tried out for one of the coveted cook positions at Minibar. My hard work

paid off and I was offered the opportunity be a part of Minibar’s culinary magic. The chefs at Minibar

were doing things with food that I never thought possible. Not only did they teach me new techniques

but they helped me develop my palate and provided me with a new perspective of what it meant to be a

chef. Despite everything I’ve learned within the past two & half years I still keep things in perspective

and I know I’m nowhere close to being the chef I want to be. I still consider myself a student of the

culinary arts and this is why I would love the opportunity to be a part of the Head to Tail dinner.

My family is filled with many great chefs such as my mother, grandmother and tio Dave.

Andy Ticer’s essay is below:

Rooter to the tooter

After hearing that this year is the tenth anniversary of Incanto’s head to tail dinner, I was impressed.  It’s hard to believe that it started that long ago. My business partner Michael Hudman and I have followed Chris Cosentino since our first dining experience at Incanto six years ago.  It was the first dinner we had state side that recalled to our memories our time in Italy, and ever since it has had a lasting impact on our lives. The dinner has even inspired our own version of a head to tail dinner, our Swine and Wine dinner here in Memphis, in it’s fifth year this February.  Looking back at how our restaurant has evolved, it’s amazing the impact that Chris has had on us, and the domino effect it has had on our community.  Its awe inspiring that an idea from someone in San Francisco could affect our city across the country.

The relationships born with our farmers out of whole animal utilization and from our vegetable farmers in the surrounding south have helped to shape our restaurant and Michael and I as cooks.  Every week our farmers deliver a whole pig, three whole lamb, and a forequarter of beef to our restaurants’ back door. They all come from a proper farm not two hours from our restaurant. If you stop and do the math over the past five years, it’s fucking awesome to know that we have done these things when it’s not convenient, more expensive, but it’s the right way to operate a restaurant. We stay true to our roots and where the food comes from. We know what the animals eat, the farmers, and how the farms are managed. We use Newman Farm heritage Berkshire Pork and Dorper Lamb, Claybrooks Farm Beef, vegetables from Woodson Ridge, Hanna Organics, and Delta Sol. We pride ourselves on using locally farmed products, utilized wholly with little waste.

Breaking down the animals has become just as much a meditation to us as making fresh pasta.  We work with these animals, creating new and inventive ways to utilize it in its entirety, to respect the life that lies on our butcher block. Not only do we support our local farmers, but we also open the eyes of our customers. When we first put a pig cheek, a trotter, or a pastrami pig tongue on our menus, people wouldn’t dare order it. Now they demand it.  Through Chris’s example, not only are we better cooks, but our city has been educated, our farmers have been supported and we’ve contributed to the growing food movement in Memphis.

Incanto and Chris have had a lasting presence that inspire us to push ourselves, become more creative, and they motivate us to do our best work. One way that Michael and I believe that we can continue to grow as cooks and chefs is to constantly learn. We will never know everything there is to know in this business. It’s part of why I love to cook as much as I do.  There is always someone working harder, and learning more that pushes us to continue to try and be the best we can. It’s so important to us that our cooks know and respect continuing their own education in the kitchen, and we try to lead by example. I would love the opportunity to cook the tenth anniversary dinner. It doesn’t matter if you have ten restaurants or zero, there is always room to learn and to keep yourself grounded and humble, and I believe that I could learn new and better ways to think about full animal utilization from someone for whom I have a great amount of respect.

It would be my extreme pleasure to participate in the tenth annual dinner. I know that what I would learn would further my abilities as a cook and as a contributor to the support of our farming community. Thank you for considering my essay.


Andrew N. Ticer

Hog & Hominy


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Adams head to tail 2012 experience Thu, 26 Apr 2012 18:37:50 +0000 Chris

photo courtesy of: Michael Harlan Turkell

Dear Chef, Incanto Crew, and all future Head to Tail stage applicants,
There is an endless number of words I can use to describe my week at what might very well be the most interesting restaurant in the country, Incanto.  I hope to use a few of them to both reflect on my time at the restaurant, as well as give all future applicants a better idea of what the experience may entail if they are fortunate enough to be selected.  Before I begin though I would like to say thank you to Chef Chris, Chef Manny, and the entire Incanto crew for inviting me into your world for a few short days, and that I am incredibly grateful for both the experience and our time together.  You were all unbelievably gracious hosts as well as phenomenal cooks and I consider it a privilege to have been a part of the team even if only for a week.  Thank you for that.  Now onto the experience.
First off I must say the stage was intense.  I’m not going to lie and say that there weren’t points where I did not feel as though I was in over my head.  Flying across the country to an unfamiliar city, to work in an unfamiliar kitchen, doing unfamiliar food was certainly more difficult than I had imagined it would be.  It is a tremendous amount of pressure entering a kitchen and representing not only yourself, but all of the people you have worked for over the years.  My first two days I could barely hold my knife straight.  It took me until service the first night of the dinner before I was able to finally get out of my head and just cook.  This was all exacerbated by the fact Incanto is a vigorous place to work.  There are no throw away items on the menu at Incanto.  All of the food is executed at a tremendously high level and as Chef wrote on his blog to describe the experience: “there is a shit ton of detailed work to be done.”  This was certainly the case.  I may have flown 6 hours from New York to northern California, but this was in no way a vacation.  There were sinks of tripe to be cleaned, thousands of fava beans to be shelled, and gallons of consommé to be clarified.  My fellow stage Italo and I were there 15 hours a day, and there was constantly something to be done.  This is by no means a complaint, but rather the reality.
For those future applicants, if you are reading this and are concerned about taking your vacation days and spending crazy amounts of money to fly out to California to work harder than you probably do at your normal job don’t be.  As a restaurant, Incanto is an inspirational place to work even if only for a few days.  I don’t know if there are any other restaurants in the world where food is looked at and viewed the way it is there.  Yes the nose to tail cooking is the main draw but there are so many great things going on in the Incanto kitchen.  The restaurant makes almost everything imaginable in house.  There are the basics like preserves and jams and pickles, but there is so much more.  They dehydrate and grind their own spices and chiles.  Make their own bread.  Their own garum.  Salt and cure egg yolks.  I swear to god there was a fish drying from the ceiling.  Also everything at the restaurant gets used.  Almost nothing is thrown out.  Herb stems go into confit oil. Confit oil gets used to cook with.  Incanto is a model for sustainability.  Every ingredient is treated with the utmost respect from the most expensive protein down to a single stem of mint.  Nearly every product there offers one hundred percent yield.   It is through these practices that even with using almost exclusively sustainable and organic products the restaurant is able to operate with a ridiculously low food cost.  It is amazing to witness and something all cooks and chefs should not only learn how to do, but strive every day to do better.
Now speaking of learning.  This brings me to what I feel is the word that best describes my stage at Incanto – educational.  There is so much to learn at this restaurant, and everyone there is more than willing to teach.  From cooking spleen, to making pasta out of pig skin, dehydrating and puffing beef tendons, and even making panna cotta out of foie gras you will learn a lot.  I know I certainly did.  The chefs at Incanto make it a point that when you work there you are actively learning.  Education often seems like the number one priority.  This extends even beyond food and cooking.  It may mean taking ten minutes out of the busiest day to watch a video about a Japanese man making coffee for tsunami survivors, or taking twenty minutes out of the day to go down the street to browse the cookbook Mecca that is Omnivore Books.  It was a constant theme running through the restaurant that even though we were busy and there was work to be done, we should always be learning something.  Even our day off included lunch with Harold McGee and a trip to the market to check out the different products you won’t find just anywhere.
Perhaps the most important thing I took away from my stage at Incanto though was the memories of a once in a lifetime experience, and if you are reading this still wondering what to expect if you are selected for the stage I offer you this information.  You will have the opportunity to work side by side with an unbelievably brilliant and knowledgeable chef, and a team of cooks as talented as you are likely to encounter anywhere in the country.  You will make extraordinary friends.  You will cook great food and also eat exceptionally well.  And you will work.  Hard.  And when it is over you will want to do it again and again.  Once again I’m incredibly thankful for this experience, and I encourage anyone who is a serious cook to apply.  If you are reading this and have already been accepted I offer you my congratulations and this parting advice.  Work hard.  Work clean.  Cook with confidence.  Have fun.  And mostly importantly even if you’ve done something a million times before,  always read your labels and double/triple check your math.
Thank you Incanto crew and good luck to all applicants.  I look forward to the opportunity to work with you in the future.
Adam R. Wile
Brooklyn, New York
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Italo’s head to tail 2012 experience Thu, 26 Apr 2012 18:31:17 +0000 Chris

photo courtesy of: michael harlan turkell

I need to start off by saying thank you to everyone in the kitchen and front of house for welcoming me into your world for a week.

A few days into my stage Manny asked me if I was having fun, and I answered him in the only way I could truly sum up how I was feeling. I said “This restaurant is like Disneyland for cooks!” It is truly a cooks dream. A beautiful kitchen, a friendly crew, and all of the fun products a cook could ever ask for. The produce is amazing, the offal beyond fresh, and working never felt like work. Chris told me, “We’re all just here to have fun.” I have honestly never had more fun in a kitchen while working so hard. The hours start early and end late, but by the end of the week it all seemed too have gone by too quickly. And what you take with you at the end cannot be learned in any book.

Anyone who considers themselves a chef, or even a cook, needs to experience Incanto first hand. They epitomize what it is to truly cook, to let a product be and not to manipulate it. Just coax it along and help it shine. And any cooks who are thinking about applying for next year’s dinner, DO IT! To not send them your essay would be doing yourself a great injustice.

My time at Incanto was second to none. I have never learned so much in such a short time. And not just recipes and techniques but what it truly is to be a cook. We as cooks have a job, which is prepare food. Pretty obvious there. But what most seem to forget about is that we have a duty to honor the products we are using. Take nothing for granted. I have never seen a kitchen that respects food as much as Incanto. And with zero pretention may I add. When you have pulled mint from the ground essentially you have killed it just as much as when you knock a hog on the head. Now you owe it to that piece of mint and that hog that they were not killed in vain, and that none of it will go to waste. And Incanto was an amazing example of this philosophy.

I honestly had the time of my life and I can’t begin to thank Chef and the rest of the crew enough for the amazing opportunity to work and learn alongside them. I look forward to next year’s head to tail and my next trip to Incanto.

Thank you




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Mozo vs Zappos cook off Finale Fri, 08 Jul 2011 20:56:04 +0000 Chris Click here to view the embedded video.


This was so much fun, I hope they had as much fun as Aaron and I did. Who would have thought it would come down to that! Be sure to look to Zappos for our shoes, they cant be beat

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Mozo vs Zappos cook off Part 1 Thu, 07 Jul 2011 18:41:49 +0000 Chris Click here to view the embedded video.

Some how I got paired with the super forward thinking CEO of  Zappos in a cooking competition I dont

know how, but I am not going to complain Tony is a true visionary.

This was a fun event we did at Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas with the entire staff watching on.

There is another video with part 2 coming to see who win take the crown so keep watching.

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Restaurant trade panel on Twitter Wed, 29 Jun 2011 14:34:32 +0000 Chris Click here to view the embedded video.

This is the Amex Trade panel I did about social media in 2010 at Aspen Food and Wine classic. It was a fun panel to be on, what you cant see is I have a giant screen posting my twitter feed to the audience as you answered my questions. It was a great way to show the power of social media.

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Aspen restaurant trade panel Fri, 24 Jun 2011 19:58:23 +0000 Chris Click here to view the embedded video.


To have the opportunity to speak on this panel with such amazingly talent hospitality professional was an honor. Each one had so much information to share, I hope the audience learned as much as I did.

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2009 Mens Health Best foods for Men Mon, 02 Nov 2009 20:56:49 +0000 Chris Essential Cooking Equipment

Brittany Risher; Chris Cosentino photo by Lisa Hamilton

Use this list to stock your kitchen, and you’ll have all the tools you need to prepare an impressive meal

chris-cosentino-credit-lisa-hamiltonSure, Iron Chef’s Kitchen Stadium is stocked with every pan, knife, and other food gadget ever made. But chances are you’ll never attempt a cookdown with Mario Batali. What you need are the essentials. To help ensure that you have the things you truly need, we talked to Chris Cosentino, chef partner at Incanto in San Francisco and partner and owner of Boccalone (, an artisan salumi business.

The first step, he says, is to determine what your cooking goal is. “”There are so many pieces of equipment,” Cosentino says, “but you don’t need to worry about them all. If you know what you want to do, you can set up your kitchen accordingly.”

Here are the things he recommends the average at-home chef should have on hand to make anything from a fast bite after work to an impressive dinner date.

1. A Cutting Board
boos-cutting-board“Having a proper wooden cutting is where everything is going to start from,” says Cosentino, who likes Boos cutting boards ( Go with wooden—although plastic is non-porous, you’re likely to put deeper knife marks into it, making it hard to clean and disinfect. And bacteria thrive in those scars.

Also, wood won’t dull your knives as quickly, and it draws bacteria below the surface—and therefore away from your food. In fact, a study by researchers at the University of California-Davis Food Safety Laboratory found that used, scarred wooden cutting boards had almost the same amount of bacteria on their surfaces as new wooden ones.

2. Knives
japanese-knivesAll you need are four: chef’s knife, paring knife, boning knife, and fillet knife. The paring knife is for smaller, precise work such as peeling, trimming, coring an apple, and sectioning an orange. The chef’s knife is your Jack-of-all-trades. Use it to chop, mince, and slice vegetables, fruit, herbs, and meat. The boning and fillet knives are self-explanatory.

Cosentino likes Japanese knives because they hold an edge better, he says. When you’re shopping, be sure to pick up the knife and hold it as you’d use it. “When you hold it, is it like an extension of your hand, or is it like having your shoe on the wrong foot?” Cosentino says. “You should like the way the handle feels and the weight of the knife.” If it feels right in your hands, it’s a good choice.

3. A Slow Cooker
slow-cooker“You want a cast-iron, enameled pot—what I call a braiser—to slow-cook items in,” says Cosentino, who has used his Calphalon slow cooker to do everything from make tomato sauce and jam to braise meat and cook a whole chicken. It’s extremely versatile (use it on the stovetop or in the oven) and easy to use: Just prep the ingredients the night before, put them into the pot before you leave for work in the morning, and when you come home, you have dinner. And, since the pot is heavy-bottomed, the heat is dispersed evenly, so you have less chance of burning your food.

4. Pans and Pots
pots-pansKeep things simple (and your cabinet uncluttered): again, four is the magic number. Start with a saucepot to cook soup in and a larger pot to cook pasta in. Then look for 8-inch and 10-inch sauté pans made out of a non-reactive material, such as cast iron or stainless steel. “Aluminum can react with acidity and change the flavor of foods like tomatoes and asparagus,” Cosentino says. He uses Calphalon in the restaurant kitchen and also recommends Demeyere cookware.

But you don’t necessarily need to buy your pans and pots individually—a set may be the best option. “If you want the basics to make beautiful meals, buy a set, and, boom, you have all the pans in the world you need,” Cosentino says. “As long as have a stove and electric or gas, you’re set.” They’re also cheaper and you’re more likely to find sales on sets than on separate items.

5. A Pepper Mill
peugeot-pepper-millIf you want your food to taste good, this overlooked item can make a big difference in flavor. Cosentino says to think about it this way: If you buy preground pepper at the store, who knows how long it’s been sitting there? And how long was it sitting prior arriving at your supermarket? He recommends grinding peppercorns with a Peugeot mill.

6. The Basics
Don’t overlook the obvious things such as a whisk, mixing bowl, spatula (Cosentino likes fish spatulas, which are good for both delicate and heavier foods), and the one thing no man can do without: a grill.

7. The Extras
Pass on the onion goggles, but if you have a few extra bucks, there are two nonessentials Cosentino thinks are worth it: a pizza stone and a Benriner mandolin (

pizza-stone- Buy a stone, and all you need to do is hit the grocery store for prepared dough and the toppings of your choice, and you’re ready to make a pie that tastes better—and has less grease and fewer calories—than delivery. “A pizza stone helps keep the oven temperature constant,” Cosentino says, and that results in a perfect crust.

- Use the mandolin for an easy way to julienne vegetables or cut them into matchsticks. You can quickly slice tons of vegetables and fruit with it, so you don’t need a knife, and they’ll all be uniform size, which can turn an ordinary salad into an impressive-looking course when you invite your girlfriend over for dinner.

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Nduja the spicy spreadable meat treat Mon, 02 Nov 2009 19:59:22 +0000 Chris boccalone store

To some the idea of a spreadable salumi is a bit out there, to me it’s perfectly rich, spicy, porky goodness. Nduja is  a classical salumi from Calabria that has spread its way into my heart and others around the country. The most commonly asked question is what do I do with it? There are so many uses; pizza, crostini, bruschetta.  So, here are a few recipes to keep everyone busy for a while, one is from me and the other from the great pastry chef and italophile Gina Depalma.

Warm Nduja & Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

4 servings

4 slices of crusty Italian bread

1 package of Boccalone nduja

3 peeled garlic cloves (2 chopped and 1 sliced in half lengthwise)

5 ripe heirloom tomatoes (preferably a mix of several different varieties), thickly sliced

Zest of 2 lemons

1 cup torn basil leaves

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Zinfandel vinegar

Kosher or sea salt to taste

Coarse ground black pepper to taste

  1. Brush both sides of bread slices with olive oil, then grill on both sides until golden brown with dark grill marks.  Set aside.
  1. In a sauté pan heat 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil over medium flame.  Add chunks of nduja (scoop these out and discard the casing), lemon zest, and chopped garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently then deglaze with vinegar. Remove from heat.
  1. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper.
  1. To serve: Rub grilled bread with sliced garlic clove, layer the sliced tomatoes, top with the warm nduja and basil.
  1. Slice bread slices diagonally and serve.

Seriously Italian: Breadcrumb-Stuffed Vegetables

“Besides being cheap and accessible, breadcrumbs are truly a blank canvas for individual creativity.”


Verdure Ripieni, or stuffed vegetables, are popular in many of Italy’s regions, with varying nods to local ingredients and traditions. Through the ages Italians have always relied on breadcrumbs as an economical and easy way to stretch a few ingredients into something tasty and belly-filling. Although these beauties make a terrific side dish for grilled or roasted meats, they’re hearty enough to be a meal on their own.

Besides being cheap and accessible, breadcrumbs are truly a blank canvas for individual creativity. Remember this golden rule for seemingly simple dishes: when working with only a few ingredients, make sure they are top notch, and treat them with the utmost care. There is far less room for error when a dish has only two or three elements.

Homemade breadcrumbs are best, and most Italians insist on making their own. I picked up a small sourdough boule at the farmer’s market last weekend for mine. I trimmed the crust just a tiny bit and cut the bread into even-sized cubes, leaving them uncovered for about a day to dry them out, then toasted the cubes until they were slightly brown. After a few batches in the food processor, I had a huge pile of tasty crumbs of variegated gold. If you can’t make your own, breadcrumbs from the local bakery are the next best bet. I don’t trust supermarket breadcrumbs. Where did they come from, and when were they made?

I could have used full-sized vegetables, but I found some miniature tomatoes and sweet peppers at the farmers’ market that inspired a diminutive theme. I cut zucchini into thick rounds, and wedged some sweet Vidalia onions. With a small paring knife, I cut the core out of the onions to create a crater to hold the crumbs. I cut the peppers in half and removed the ribs and seeds, cored the halved tomatoes, and made little cavities in the center of the zucchini rounds.

To finish the vegetable prep, generously grease a baking dish that will snugly hold all the vegetables with extra-virgin olive oil, then arrange the vegetables inside, brushing them with more of the oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 375°F.


To season 3/4 of a cup of breadcrumbs, I heated three tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. I had some ‘nduja from Boccalone in the refrigerator, so I melted about an ounce of that into the oil; you can infuse the oil with minced garlic, or a squirt of anchovy paste, or render some finely chopped pancetta, prosciutto or guanciale in the oil to enrich the crumbs.

I mixed the crumbs with oil, and added a handful of minced, chopped herbs: I used parsley, marjoram, basil and mint from our garden. I also added three minced scallions and a few spoonfuls of grated Pecorino Romano; grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano works too. A few squirts of fresh lemon juice ties all the flavors together.


Cram the crumbs into all the nooks and crannies of the vegetables, and create little mounds on top. It isn’t necessary to be neat and fussy since the crumbs that fall between are going to make a delicious “sauce” when it is all done. Store any leftover crumbs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for the next use; they are delicious tossed with al dente pasta and olive oil.

Drizzle over more olive oil over the top, and pour a splash of white wine and enough water into the bottom of the pan to come up about one-third of the depth of the vegetables. Cover the pan with tin foil and bake the vegetables for about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and add a little more water if necessary, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the breadcrumbs are toasty on top.

We decided to make a meal out of our verdure ripieni, serving them with herbed rice and a simple salad—a colorful, economical and nutrition-packed meal.

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