Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food Informant? Tell us why.
Chris Cosentino is the executive chef of San Francisco's Incanto, an offal-heavy (not sure what offal is? Check out our Whole Animal Guide here) rustic Italian restaurant located in San Francisco. While encouraging patrons to try different cuts of meat, Cosentino also champions eating locally. He's previously cooked at such renowned restaurants as Kinkead's and Chez Panisse, and cites Jean-Louis Palladin as a big influence on his cooking style. He also co-owns Boccalone, which sells various cured meats and house-made salami. To learn more about Cosentino, check out his website, Offal Good.
Read Chris Cosentino's diary below to learn about some of his many projects, and what types of offal he eats in a week.
Friday, August 6
10am: Head to Incanto for menu meeting with Manfred, our chef de cuisine. Spend most of the day making schedules and prepping for SF Chefs Grand Tasting tent. We were stuffing and poaching sausages.
2:30pm: Finish packing food for SF Chefs opening night and hop in a cab to the event at Union Square. I give a speech for the cake cutting ceremony and serve 1600 portions of pork estufada, a Portugese stew. Our booth is packed all night and thankfully, the Anchor Steam booth is just across from our station.
10:25pm: Get cab to restaurant to unload our stuff and check on staff and greet some guests. Head to SF Chefs after party where I catch the tail end of Dave the Butcher breaking down a lamb. Talk with the group about the difference between classic butchery vs. chef-trained butchery -- very different methods but you end up with the same product and cuts in the end. We decide it's all about the type of efficiency needed for the environment and that dictates the techniques.
Saturday, August 7
7am: Coffee then off to the farmers' market with my son to buy for the restaurant. We picked up two types of pluots from the Hamadas, watermelon radishes, petit radishes, broccoli from Dirty Girl and Douglas Fir from White Crane. Plus some beautiful chilies on the vine for me to hang and dry at the restaurant.
2pm: Kitchen menu meeting at Incanto and then off to SF Chefs Iron Chef battle. Elizabeth Falkner and I team up against Dominique Crenn and Russell Jackson to win a $20,000 donation to our chosen charity and we win! We present the check to Meals on Wheels of San Francisco.
6:30pm: Back in the kitchen at Incanto for service. It’s a full house (sous chef from Joe Beef is here) and the ticket rail is packed at 10:15. Last plate goes out at 11 and I head home at 1:30 AM.
3am: Wake up with unopened beer in hand fully dressed on the couch sitting up.
Sunday, August 8
8:30am: Bagel cream cheese and fresh tomatoes with espresso. Hang out with family, help clean the house and watch some TV with my son. It’s a rare day to just chill out.
6pm: Head to Incanto and work dinner service that gets a little crazy...had to let a server go. Show a journalist dining with us how we make the corzetti with pig blood. Get home at around midnight, eat an order of sardines from the restaurant then go to bed.
Monday, August 9
7:15am: Pack my son's lunch of salami, green beans and cherry tomatoes for camp. Pack clothes for my trip to Toronto.
12:10pm: Cab picks me up to go to the airport and I check in to find out my flight has been delayed two hours. Have a quick rice bowl and start work on typing recipes for cookbook in between work calls. Surprisingly, I finish eight of them.
11:10pm: Land in Toronto and on my way to the Black Hoof. Have a great meal -- Grant Van Gameren and the staff cook me an awesome dinner including cured meats like a spruce salami and some pickled milkweed pods that were an amazing treat and something I had never seen. Also the beef tongue on brioche there is unf*cking believable.
2:30am: Mercifully, the staff at Black Hoof goes easy on me -- I get a tour of both locations from Grant and Jen Agg and hang out and talk shop. We talk about how the job never stops, and why we continue to wake up and go back everyday for more, and we chat all things curing and preserving since they put up tons of products each summer for the winter. Plus they cook everything on an electric stove which I am still trying to wrap my head around.
2:45am: Check in at the Four Seasons and crash.
Tuesday, August 10
9:45am: Full day of shooting. Can't say what I ate yet but the weather was crazy…hot, then it poured. [Editor's note: Stay tuned?!]
9:15pm: Back at hotel, call my wife then head to dinner at Bacco with Grant and Jen. Have great meal! The chef started by sending out a round of his cured meats, a fried course of small fish, blossoms, and pigs ears, then on to the pasta course of pigs blood spaghetti with burratta, and an eggplant lasagna. More fun conversation about the dining scene in Toronto, their recent trip to Chicago and their meal at Alinea where I still haven't eatenn so it was interesting for me to hear about it.
Wednesday, August 11
5:20am: Wake up call and head to the airport.
7:00am: Go have breakfast of grapefruit juice, oatmeal and a double espresso at the Maple Leaf Sky Lounge and board flight back home.
8:20am: Productive flight. Finished 6 recipes after a small nap and catch up on some reading. I read the blood article in the new Food Arts magazine, Food & Wine, the New York Times food section, and watch a bad movie.
10:40am: Land at SFO and again have to direct the cab driver how to get to my house.
12pm: Take the BART to the Ferry Building to check on Boccalone then head to meet Anthony Bourdain for a day of shooting his new show. We went for amazing Korean food, beers and soju.
5pm: Head to Nob Hill for last shoot with Tony then meet Phillip Baltz at Americano. We have dinner at Nojo -- I wanted to take Phil someplace he hadn't been and we ate tons: all the skewers, chicken skin matcha & sea salt, gizzard, beef tongue, beef heart, tomato cha wan mushi, tsukne & egg yolk sauce, karate of wing & drums, pork jowls and pork belly, and a lot of beer.
10pm: Hang out with my wife Tatiana and go to bed.
Thursday, August 12
7:15am: Wake up and make breakfast for Easton: whole wheat bread, my wife’s peach jam and peanut butter and a glass of milk. I have some Americanos and take a shower.
10:30am: We go to get Easton some Pokemon cards then go to the restaurant to check in set menu for tonight's parties. With 3 leg of beasts, Manfred and I talk about vegetable sides and salad choice. Odds and ends board menu items get worked out then we talk about the next menu changes for tomorrow.
11:15am: Go home make Easton lunch of tomatoes and bell peppers. I call Sang Yoon to go over our event for Los Angeles Food & Wine this October. We’re doing a lunch called "Meat in the Middle" where we’re each taking one end of an animal and cooking our way through it until we meet...in the middle. TBD on which end I get.
1pm: Back to Incanto for a TV shoot then staff meal and meeting about new dishes and how to provide better service.
5:30pm: Doors open and I’m on the line until midnight. We sold out the entire odds & ends board. We did a special ham in hay with masumoto peaches for our regular guests Jay and Grace. They adopted a peach tree and dropped off peaches for their dinner. All the diners came at the same time for a huge seating all at once but otherwise a great night.
12am: Finish with clean up and start drafting new menu items.
See the previous Food Informants:
Geoff Bartakovics, 34, is the co-founder and CEO of Tasting Table, the free daily email publication all about food & drink culture. Before starting Tasting Table, Geoff was a business manager in asset-backed finance at UBS Investment Bank, where he coordinated business activities among the fixed income trading desk and the bank's middle- and back-office functions. Geoff was formerly a business analyst at Deloitte Consulting. He attended The University of Chicago, from which he graduated with honors in English. He was a Fulbright Scholar in comparative literature and philosophy in Berlin and Hamburg. He's an obsessive dinner party entertainer and a serious home cook. Read Geoff's diary here.
Elizabeth Laseter, an aspiring food journalist, is a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University and lives in Washington, D.C. She received her diploma in Writing and Art History and is now pursuing a Culinary Arts Degree at L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md. The one-year program includes six months of learning techniques in the classroom and six months at an externship in a D.C. fine dining restaurant. Elizabeth documents her food adventures through two blogs, The Baltimore Food Rag and The D.C. Food Rag. She decided to attend culinary school after interning at Baltimore magazine and working with the food editor. Read Elizabeth's full diary here.
Jane and Terry Levan operate a 20-acre pastured poultry farm outside of Lexington, Texas called Dewberry Hills Farm, after the dewberry vines that grow wild on their land. They raise antibiotic- and hormone-free meat chickens for sale. Their chickens mostly live outdoors. The Devans call themselves "omnivores with a conscience;" Jane won't eat any meat unless she personally knowns who raised it and how it was processed. Jane and Terry began farming in 2003, after reading Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma. The pair had always wanted to farm, but they didn't want to follow the industrial agricultural model. Jane and Terry built a processing building on-site and became state certified so they could sell their birds commercially in May 2008. Read Jane's diary here.
"James" is an Apple employee. He works at Caffe Macs, the on-site cafeteria of Apple's campus in Cupertino, Ca. Reminiscent of Google's epic food offerings, Caffe Macs is pretty much a corporate food court dream-come-true. Read James' diary here.
Brooklyn-based Aaron Lefkove used to work in book publishing and as a freelance writer. After his office re-located to New Jersey, Lefkove decided he didn't want to do the commute. Lefkove and his business partner, Andy Curtin, had the idea for a Cape Cod-style seafood joint for awhile. One day at a barbecue, they decided to commit to opening a restaurant, Littleneck, Brooklyn's first and only classic New England-style beach side seafood shack. Besides working in restaurants growing up, Lefkove had no experience as a restaurateur. He acknowledges that the process has been a major learning curve, but so far, there haven't been any obstacles they couldn't get around. At first, he thought opening up a clam shack would be easier than finding a new job but it turns it that it is actually "WAY WAY WAY harder." Despite this being the "hardest, most stressful, most frustrating, most time consuming, most ambitious thing" he has ever done, it isn't nearly as hard as he thought it would be. Plus, he says he loves working for himself, working toward something he has "always dreamed about," and building something really exciting. Read Aaron Lefkove's diary here.
Jonathan Stich, 29, is a third generation farmer from Burlington, Wisconsin. He grew weary of the corporate world, went traveling and decided to become a farmer. After reading about how heirloom tomato grower Tim Stark in Pennsylvania sells his products to New York restaurants, Stich made the decision to spend a night in restaurants in Milwaukee and Chicago asking if they'd be interesting in buying local produce. Read more about Jonathan Stich's week here.
Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada are the owners, managers and butchers in chief of LA's artisanal butcher shop Lindy and Grundy. (Erika is Grundy and Amelia is Lindy.) The two, who also live together and are a couple, opened their store on Fairfax last spring (profiled on HuffPost Food). Lindy and Grundy has already been feted as one of the most best butchers in Southern California -- and quite possibly its most sustainable. Read about a week in the life of Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada's here.
Recently, inspired by a meeting at the San Francisco Food Bank, chef Karl Wilder started the food stamp challenge: living and eating on a food stamp budget. What began as a one week project has turned into a two-month long commitment. Wilder calculated that a family has $1.33 to spend per meal, and decided that when using oil and seasonings, the cost would be $1.22. In total, he has less than $4 to spend on food per day. He monitors his nutrition and caloric intake on FitDay. You can read more about his daily experiences at on his blog, Fusion On The Fly. Read about a week in the life of Karl Wilder here.
Chris Cosentino is the executive chef of San Francisco's Incanto, an offal-heavy (not sure what offal is? Check out our Whole Animal Guide here) rustic Italian restaurant located in San Francisco. While encouraging patrons to try different cuts of meat, Cosentino also champions eating locally. He's previously cooked at such renowned restaurants as Kinkead's and Chez Panisse, and cites Jean-Louis Palladin as a big influence on his cooking style. He also co-owns Boccalone, which sells various cured meats and house-made salami. To learn more about Cosentino, check out his website, Offal Good. Read about a week in the life of Chris Cosentino here.
"Jane," 24, has been working for Trader Joe's since 2007, though in 2009 she left for over a year to go work for Whole Foods. She did not like it there and returned to TJ's. At Trader Joe's, every employee does a range of tasks, but Jane's speciality is dairy. Below is her explanation of the pros and cons of the job: I like working for Trader Joe's because they pay me well and offer great benefits. They also respect me as an employee and make me feel like I'm useful and needed and not just another part-time employee that can be replaced (which has been the case at other retail jobs I've had). Trader Joe's is really good at hiring great people and I'm lucky to have so many wonderful co-workers. I don't like working at Trader Joe's because the work can be strenuous on my back and wrists. Being on a register for several hours at a time is tiring and somewhat soul crushing due to ignorant people who feel the need to be condescending to me because I work at a grocery store. I also feel that the company is becoming more and more corporate as it grows and it is beginning to have an impact on the enjoyability of being a part-time "crew member." I also work in a very busy store which causes the managers to stress out a lot and I don't enjoy being surrounded by it. Read about a week in the life of a Trader Joe's employee here.
Chef Nate Appleman is the Culinary Manager at Chipotle. This involves a range of tasks including developing new menu items, opening ShopHouse (Chipotle's upcoming Asian fast-casual chain) and furthering Chipotle's commitment to sustainable sourcing. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Appleman was previously executive chef and co-owner of San Francisco's super popular Italian restaurants A16 and SPQR. Appleman moved to New York in 2010 to open Pulino's. After leaving, Appleman took his current position at Chipotle. He has received a James Beard award for Rising Star Chef, been anointed Best New Chef by Food & Wine and is the champion of Food Network's Chopped All-Stars. Read about a week in the life of Nate Appleman here.
Freeganism is a lifestyle in which one employs "alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources." Gio Andollo is a writer, artist, musician and freegan. Andollo became a freegan when he realized that artists don't get paid much, but he didn't like the idea of working a "crappy, part-time job" to pay the bills. So he found another way. Andollo performs on the subway for about 20 hours a week, typically in two-hour intervals. He makes $10 to $50 per shift and has a love/hate relationship with busking. Andollo will buy food, but very rarely. The majority of his food comes from trash touring, or dumpster diving. He's become increasingly concerned with the abuses inherent in current economic systems: waste of resources, exploitation of people, degradation of the environment, calloused treatment of animals, commodification of time, labor, even war (thus human life in wholesale). In addition to busking part-time, he writes songs, blogs and books about these issues. Read about a week in the life of Gio Andollo here.
Captain Jason Joyce is an eighth-generation resident of Swan's Island, Maine. He is a Coast Guard Licensed Captain and a registered Maine Tidewater Guide. He has done lobster and fish research with the University of Maine, the University of Massachusetts, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Lobster Institute. Joyce is currently doing a lot of work with the Penobscot East Resource Center, which works to secure a viable future for the fishing communities of eastern Maine. Each week, he records HD video of lobstering that he gives to restaurants to educate customers about sustainable lobster fisheries in Maine. Captain Joyce is married to his high school sweetheart and they have four children. Learn more about Captain Jason Joyce here. Read about a week in the life of Jason Joyce here.
Martin Kastner is a serviceware designer extraordinaire/jack-of-all-design-trades for Grant Achatz's Alinea, Next and The Aviary. Kastner creates custom pieces that work with Achatz's elaborate and intricate food. Born in the Czech Republic, Kastner trained as a blacksmith and received an MFA in sculpture. (His thesis was about air). He met his American wife in Prague and moved to the US in 1998. In 2003, Kastner received an unexpected email from Grant Achatz, who had emailed a host of designers. Kastner was the only one to respond. They've partnered not only on serviceware, but also on web design, video and the Alinea cookbook. Kastner's other clients include L20 (an upscale, seafood-focused Chicago restaurant), Le Bernardin (Eric Ripert's homage to seafood) and Empellon (Alex Stupak's new Mexican restaurant in New York). Read about a week in the life of Martin Kastner here.