The Williams-Sonoma team was proud to collaborate with Chris Cosentino, Chef/Partner at Incanto and Boccalone in San Francisco and Pigg in Los Angeles, on his debut cookbook, Beginnings. In the book, the acclaimed chef presents more than 60 recipes for Italian-style first courses, all organized by season. His inspired ingredient combinations are a perfect representation of one of the country’s most exciting culinary minds.
I asked Cosentino to share the story behind the book — why he chose these recipes, how he approaches ingredients and why you can see his own sketches on the pages. Keep reading to hear what he had to say, and scroll to the bottom of this post for a behind-the-scenes video.
A: I hear many people say they like to go to a restaurant and just eat the first courses. I figured it made sense to give people a chance to do that with the food I make at Incanto.
Q: People associate you with your innovations for cooking animals, but vegetables play a huge role in the book. What was your reasoning for that?
A: People might be surprised by it, but I cook with lots of vegetables everyday. I think that because I am very outspoken about my belief that you should use the whole animal, that’s all people think I cook. But the fact is, I use more vegetables then most people realize. Right now, I’m in love with radishes.
Q: Why did you structure the book by season?
A: I structured the book in the same way that I cook. I work with what is in season, so it seemed best for the book to flow that way. When people buy products at the market, they have a section to go to in the book for that season.
Q: How can meat and seasonal vegetables play off of each other in this context?
A: Just as vegetables have seasons, so do meats and fish.
Q: What’s one recipe you’d recommend people try from the book?
A: I recommend you try all sixty of them, one at a time.
Q: Many of your recipes are Italian-inspired. Is that because you like to cook and eat that way, or why?
A: That’s exactly it.
Q: How do you balance exotic ingredients with more familiar ones to create a cohesive dish? What’s your approach?
A: When I look at an item that people may be unfamiliar with, I always pair it with a “safe” item. When you put the familiar with the unfamiliar people are more likely to try something new. It’s a balance.
Q: Tell me about the sketches in the book and how you decided to include those.
A: The sketches came out of me explaining the recipes to my editor, Jen. She would be asking questions and sometimes I found it easier to just draw a picture to explain what I was trying to say in the recipe. This helped in the editing process of the recipes.
This title is also available as a digital download. Click to purchase Beginnings from the iBookstore and App store. http://bit.ly/SId2e3
Photo Credit: Michael Harlan Turkell
About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.