Chris Cosentino, Top Chef Masters, a meat lover that serves the Impossible Burger, in Cockscomb

By Fabiola Gálvez
Chris Cosentino is a meat master, the famous American chef from Top Chef Masters has revalued the offal in haute cuisine. His philosophy is to take full advantage of the whole animal, from ‘nose to tail’: nose, ear, tongue, and so on, until reaching the legs. Nothing is wasted.

Incanto was the restaurant that, for twelve years, extended this philosophy and was highly acclaimed for its innovative Italian and whole-animal cooking. In 2014, he leaves this adventure to open Cockscomb in San Francisco, and here he also shows a variety of cuts of meat inspired by the city’s culinary history. On the menu, he serves beef heart tartare, wood Oven Roasted Pig’s Head, and pig ears spaghetti with sauce. It’s a paradise for meat lovers and, although you can’t imagine finding it on the menu, the Impossible Burger also appears, since 2016. The plant-based meat that bleeds like real meat, because of its magic ingredient, heme. In his most recent collaboration, chef Chris has created recipes for the book “Impossible – the Cookbook: How to Save Our Planet, One Delicious Meal at a Time”.

Chris Cosentino is also co-owner of Jackrabbit in Portland, Acacia House in Las Alcobas, Napa Valley, and Rosalie in Houston, Texas.

“I try to make food approachable for everyone. The goal is to make people comfortable, to make people familiar with the unfamiliar”

How did Impossible Burger win over this meat lover? Find out below.

Do you remember your Italian grandmother serving you tripes when you were a child? As you mentioned, It was a traumatic experience. How do you go from there to loving all offal?

As a kid, we all know tripe isn’t’ the normal thought of delicious cuisine. It’s a long, hard and very aromatic process to cook tripe so the smell of it wasn’t appealing to me, and the texture was very different as well. As I got older, my taste buds developed and I learned more about textures and flavor to then appreciate what tripe was and the varied ways it could be served when worked with properly.

 

How do you get to know every part of an animal better than anyone else and become the biggest expert on ‘nose to tail’ cooking in the country and make people love to eat french fries with lamb (testicles)?

I spent a lot of time doing research about eating offal and learning about what each organ did and how it performed. I also learned how the muscles in the body of the animal helped protect and make each organ function properly. I read a lot of books that needed to be translated and I also purchased books from UC Davis veterinary school so I could learn about how to properly butcher as well as the organs and their structure. This was an odd way to learn but it helped me understand things better in a more educated way. The dish with lamb fries was a dish of lamb testicles [fries is the butchers’ term for testicles]. Making people feel comfortable with these cuts of meat is all about education and serving the familiar with the unfamiliar. Guests have to feel comfortable knowing where the animal came from and how it was handled made it a lot easier for me to sell these cuts, and guests built a trust in me.

 

Why do we have to practice the ‘nose to tail’ eating or eat all the parts of an animal? What do we have to understand about this philosophy?

Cooking the whole animal is a more sustainable way of eating, in the big picture of meat-eating. If an animal gives it life for food, we should respect it, and use all of the animal, and make the best dishes out of every last bit. In the long run, eating this way is better for the farm, the ranch and the planet as a whole. Less waste utilization and a better economy of scales for everyone.

 

Changing the subject. We love the picture where you meet the former presidential couple, the Obamas, on your personal page. How was that meeting? Did they try any of your dishes? If so, which of them?

I was asked to cook a dish on the White House lawn for the Easter Egg Roll. I went to DC and cooked a strawberry and fava bean salad for the kids. It was an amazing experience. I was able to meet the Obamas and speak with them for a moment and have my photo taken. They were not able to try the dish, unfortunately, since they were so busy that day. It was an amazing and memorable day for sure.

 

Why do you think haute cuisine chefs have added plant-based meat to their menus? This was the first level where the Impossible burger arrived and then, it became more popular. How did it win you over?

I think that guests are demanding the options and there is an interest in the ability for us to serve an ingredient that doesn’t have such a big impact on the environment.

 

Before Covid-19, how many Impossible Burgers did you sell in your restaurant? And 12 days after the reopening of Cockscomb and with the plant-based meat boom, do you sell the same quantity or more than before or maybe it’s too early to tell?

We only sold Impossible meat at lunch, as a hamburger, to guarantee it being uncontaminated by meat. We had a designated non-meat area to cook it at lunch, which we couldn’t have at night. We have not re-opened to the public for sit down dining, only meal kits to-go, so we are not serving Impossible at this time.

 

How has been your contribution to the book “Impossible – the Cookbook: How to Save Our Planet, One Delicious Meal at a Time”?

I wanted to provide 2 different types of recipes for folks to work with the Impossible meat in different ways. One was a burger which people love, but the other was larb which is Thai inspired meat salad. These flavors are amazing, offering people a different technique of cooking Impossible and trying new tastes.

 

Plant-based meat has great culinary potential, many recipes can be made, but how do you like to cook it?

It cooks like real meat which is what makes Impossible meat a really great product to work with. You can work with it from raw to finished product, it’s not a pre-cooked and reheated type of product which allows it to be used in so my different techniques.

 

“Chris Cosentino is a righteous heir to the lineage of Fergus Henderson, Mario Batali and the great, unknown cooks of France and Italy who created iconic dishes from every part of the animal. His food is also surprisingly simple–and unsurprisingly, delicious.” – Anthony Bourdain

 

Order Cockscomb’s shared suppers and meal kits for pickup or delivery via Tock: https://www.exploretock.com/cockscombsf?tock_source=tock&tock_medium=search_nav