Another difficult year to choose the 2 stages for this years head to tail!! We had a great mix of very talented chefs form all over the country as well as Canada. As well as some amazing essays as well as some really bad ones, but that being said I feel we did a great job choosing our 2 stages for this year. So now the hard part is over lets let the fun begin. I have included their names and essays for you to read after the break. Thank you everyone for your time and effort in your essays, it is a very hard decision to make, all who applied were really great. keep cooking offal !!
Italo Marino from Mt Pleasant, South Carolina
I first fell in love with offal at thirteen. I come from a very large and very old world Sicilian family. And every year, for generations now, all of the men in the family get together for what they call “tripe-fest.” It’s been a family tradition since my grandfather was a child, and when they moved to America they’ve kept the tradition alive. All of us meet at one of the uncles’ houses and everyone brings something. Whether it is a case of wine, a box of cigars, or some homemade lemoncello, everyone contributes. It’s a day for drinking and eating and catching up with family u may only see once a year.
And the meal is an all offal feast. Three kinds of tripe, headcheese, grilled beef heart and pork liver skewers, chicken and duck liver mousse, brains, sweetbreads, kidneys wrapped in caul fat, all sorts of sausages and a few simple salads. But the day I fell in love with offal it wasn’t my uncles tripe, which is still the best I’ve been able to find anywhere, but it was a simply braised pigs trotter that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was nothing more than a foot simmered in a basic tomato sauce, but this was it! There was practically no meat to be found anywhere on that foot and I didn’t miss it at all. The skin was so tender, which held in all of the delicious gelatin and cartilage and all the lovely bits that are hidden in a trotter. All the old timers thought it was great. The first year I had been invited and I’m sitting behind a pile of picked over bones. I must have had half a dozen or so.
I had the good fortune to be able to work in three amazing Michelin starred restaurants while living in New York. Now that I have moved out of the city I luckily found a position under a young chef as excited about food as I. The highlight of my week is when we get our pork delivery from Keegan Filion Farm. But the best part is not only the beautiful grass fed pork, beef, and poultry, but each week they bring us a box of mixed offal. They give it to us for free because none of their other clients want anything to do with them.
Each week it’s something different. Sometimes it’s a couple of pig heads, liver and tails. Other times it’s a case of 40 pigs feet and beef hearts. But each week we get to take these products and work them into specials for our restaurant or our Italian restaurant next door. Testa, guanciale, smoked hearts, liver sausage, all sorts of things that test us on a daily basis. And every now and then when I serve a one of my special I cant help but think about that simply braised trotter on a paper plate sitting on a picnic table all those years ago.
AdamR. Wile from Brooklyn, NY
Although I am sure you will be reviewing a great deal of applications I am submitting this essay to make the case why I believe I should be chosen as one of the stages for this year’s Head to Tail dinner. First I must say that growing up in Queens New York I have never visited Incanto. This however has not stopped me from becoming a huge fan of the restaurant and the type of food you prepare. I follow you closely on twitter and am often awed by the dishes and ideas you post. I believe in the philosophy of using the whole animal, and as a cook have tried to work in restaurants that believe in that philosophy as well. It is one of the main reasons I was drawn to the kitchens of Momofuku and Fatty ‘Cue. Both these restaurants are at the forefront of the New York dining scene when it comes to sustainability, and both restaurants afforded me the opportunity to work with parts of the animal not often seen on menus. Still when it comes to head to tail eating I can’t help but feel both of these restaurants could have gone further, moving beyond the more popular though still untraditional parts of the animal and showing people just how delicious all parts of it can be.
“That animal gave its life for you… Don’t waste any,” I remember a cook at Momofuku saying to me as I was bone-ing out pork shoulders one afternoon. I was very aware. It reminded me of the lessons my uncle passed onto me as he was teaching me how to slaughter roosters at his farm in upstate New York when I was younger. It’s something that has stuck with me ever since. Animals which have given their lives must be treated with respect, and part of that respect is not wasting any useable piece of them. To do so is to waste life. There is a quote from Fergus Henderson I like to remember along the same lines; “Once you knock an animal on the head it is only polite to eat the whole animal.” This seems simple and fair enough, but I believe in it deeply. I feel what stops many people from acting on this idea, myself included, is a lack of knowledge. There may be no better kitchen in the world right now to truly learn how to cook offal and innards than at Incanto.
Clearly as cooks and chefs our responsibility to sustainability goes beyond just the meat we cook with, but also the produce and the vegetables we use as well. This idea led me to turn my tiny Queens backyard into a full on organic garden which my sous chef affectionately referred to as Wild Wile Farms. Growing everything from my own Mizuna to Shishito peppers to French Breakfast radishes has given me a deeper respect for the work and time that goes into growing delicious fresh food and has furthered that same notion of “Don’t waste any.” I know California and San Francisco in particular offer local and seasonal produce rivaled by very few places in the world. It would be extraordinary to have the opportunity to be able to work with some of these products if I was selected.
With Fatty Cue Brooklyn recently shutting its doors for renovations I am in the unique position to be able to pack my bags and head to San Francisco for this incredible opportunity. It would be an honor to be selected. I feel as though I have so much to learn and would take this experience with me far beyond my cooking career. Thank you for your consideration and best of luck with the decision making process.
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