Chris Cosentino is the executive chef of Incanto, a rustic Italian restaurant serving fresh, straight-forward locally sourced food. He is the honorary chef co-chair for Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation San Francisco on Thursday at The Bently Reserve, 301 Battery St.
Tell me about the types of jobs you have had over the years.
My career started as a dishwasher at an IHOP and continues from there. I attended Johnson & Wales University and have played many different roles ranging from a white-gloved tuxedo waiter to a line cook. Each job was preparation for the next gig. I had the opportunity to work in Las Vegas opening Nobhill Tavern for Michael Mina. I have been working in San Francisco for 15 years with positions at Rubicon, Belon, Aqua, Redwood Park and Grand Cafe. Currently, I am the chef at Incanto for eight years and counting. We opened Boccalone in 2008.
How did you come to be the honorary chef co-chair of the Share Our Strength event?
I was nominated to co-chair Share Our Strength after working the past four consecutive events. My goal is to help reach a large audience who are willing to help feed hungry children. This event is to help reach out to an audience of people who love food and who understand the need for every child to have healthy meals. By reaching out to this group of people we hope to raise awareness of the needs of children.
What is your first memory of cooking?
I was 3 or 4 years old. I was standing on a chair and cranking the pasta machine for my great-grandmother Rosalie Cosentino. I helped her make the tomato pie by poking holes in the dough and spreading the sauce before she baked the pie.
What or who inspired you to enter the world of food?
Cooking is a huge part of my family. I’m of English and Italian heritage. My great-grandmother was from Naples and my New England grandmother raised me in the kitchen. It was always about the food, the common bond that cured all wounds and would bring people together. As a child, I worked on commercial fishing boats and local farms in Rhode Island during the summers. Cooking was the next logical step, so I went to culinary school.
Who has had a big impact on your working life?
Many people have influenced my working life, including Mark Miller, my first chef and mentor, and Traci Des Jardins, my first San Franciscan chef. She whooped me into shape. Most importantly, my wife, Tatiana Graf, who has always helped and supported me from the beginning as a broke line cook to present. She has always been there, win or lose.
How does it feel to be part of Taste of the Nation and why is it important for people to be involved in causes like this?
I am honored to be a part of Taste of the Nation. Every child deserves a healthy meal and it should be everyones’ goal to help make that possible. Tickets can be purchased by calling (877) 26-TASTE or by visiting TasteOfTheNation.org.