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Ask a Chef: Beard Award Nominee Chris Cosentino

Hilary Deutsch

February 29, 2016

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Winner of Top Chef Masters and a longtime San Francisco favorite, Chris Cosentino is also a leader of the nose-to-tail movement, which leaves no tail or trotter uncooked. For his much awaited Beard House dinner, the king of offal will treat guests to the full monty: a lavish, waste-less menu featuring dishes like chicken heart skewers with fish sauce glaze, pig skin spaghetti alla puttanesca, and smoked beef breast with scallops and horseradish. In anticipation of this whole-animal feast, we caught up with Cosentino about his favorite Bay Area spots, the last great meal he ate (think: crispy-skinned goose), and why he'll never be a guilty eater.

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What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event? 

The wine pairings that were chosen for the meal are very bold, so I wanted to prepare a menu that would work well with the beautiful and rich Napa Valley wines from Robert Biale Vineyards, while also showcasing the style and flavors of Cockscomb.

What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why? 

I'm proud of all the food we're preparing for the event, but the one that stands out the most is the Coq au Vin with Smoked Pork Belly, Carrots, and Liver Toast. I’m excited to share my version of this classic dish made with heirloom roosters marinated in Black Chicken Zinfandel from Biale Vineyards.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food?

Food should never make anyone feel guilty. Life is too short.  

Tell us about the last great meal you ate.

I had so many amazing meals in Hong Kong on my last trip there in November, but one that really stood out was a delicious bowl of goose noodles at Yat Lok. The simplicity and delicate flavor of the broth along with the crispy-skinned goose and tender leg meat was something that will leave a flavor impression on me forever.

Who's been your biggest inspiration, and what dish would you cook to thank them?

There are so many great people and chefs that have inspired me over the years, including Fergus Henderson who introduced me to the love of all the parts of the animal. When I was a kid in culinary school, Marco Pierre White showed me that it was all about the food. Jean-Louis Palladin is also an amazing inspiration with such a unique way to inspire: his love of the craft, intensity, and search for the best of quality changed the way I looked at everything. There are so many other chefs that still inspire me each day.  

What are your favorite places to eat in San Francisco these days? 

For a great meal in San Francisco, go to Aster—Brett Cooper is cooking delicious food there. For excellent pastries, I must say that William Werner is doing great things at Craftsman and Wolves. I don’t want to share all of my under-the-radar spots because last time I did I couldn’t get a table anymore! 
 
 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?

Get to know the history of your food and culture before you try and make something new—you cannot create if you don’t understand where things come from. Also, another great tip I received was “acid and herbs before salt.” Both of these lessons came from Mark Miller, and to this day, I still abide by them because they’re so important. 

Take a peek at what Chris Cosentino will be cooking at the Beard House on March 7 and book your seat.

View all upcoming Beard House events and book your seat at jamesbeard.org/events.

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Hilary Deutsch is editorial assistant at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram.