Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino is king when it comes to two things – pork and honesty. His new show on Youtube’s Hungry Channel, Pork You, explores the way different cultures use different parts of pork. It’s hard to tell what’s more entertaining – Cosentino’s personality or the information he’s dishing out. We like the new move to a web series; according to Cosentino, it doesn’t have the boundaries network television has. And in a Bourdain-esque age where chefs are the new – and sometimes controversial – rock stars, who needs boundaries? We sat down with Cosentino for a “no rules” interview on raw kidney, zombies and why food TV is fucked up. You may want to keep this one away from the kids…
What would be your ideal food day?
I would love to start the day at 4:30 in the morning at Tsukiji Market, watch the auction and go have sushi in the market. Then I would go to the Pacific Northwest and just power oysters. From there, I’d probably go to Spain and go to the Boqueria in Barcelona and ham out. Eat ibérico from every age and have a ham lunch – ham up the wazoo with a big plate of padrons. And then what? Maybe from there I’d go to have dim sum at Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong – the best dim sum I’ve ever had in my life. Forty-eight pieces of dim sum for under thirty bucks. I’d have pineapple pork buns, then I’d go and finish with a New England classic clam boil with steamers and lobster. I’d love a traditional New England clam boil with chorizo and corn like in my childhood. This would bring it full circle. The last thing I would do is go and have a negroni and get late-night Korean food with all of my chef buddies.
We’ve heard you say there’s a “fucked-up-ness” with food TV. What do you mean by that?
It’s a pretty straightforward thing if you look at food TV now; everything’s really candy coated. There are two shows out there that are honest and genuine – Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (which just transferred to CNN) and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods. Those shows delve into culture, a place and a way of life. I think other food shows we are seeing now have become really dumbed down and treat people like they’re stupid. I think it’s really unfair.
I think part of that is the assumption that people don’t have skills, but some of the best chefs in the world just cook in their homes. That’s because maybe they don’t want to put up with the bullshit of working at a restaurant. On TV you have Gordon Ramsay belittling people beyond what’s necessary and that’s not what it’s like in the restaurant world. Nobody does that. I’m sure I’ll get a nasty gram from him for saying that, but it’s true. It causes a negative stereotype about the restaurant kitchen.
Then you have the people on TV who make things easy with processed foods – a segment on how you can doctor up a processed food. That is ridiculous; what is happening? What happened to Julia Child? Teach people how to cook! Don’t treat them like they’re stupid. Give them the skills to excel. It’s like the saying ‘If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.’ That’s how I feel about food TV. And yes, a lot comes down to channels dictating what the show should be like, but there’s a way to do it without treating people like they’re stupid. It’s not honest anymore. Am I just as much to blame? Yeah. I ran around like a jackass competing with local chefs [on Chef Vs. City]. Was that appropriate? No it wasn’t. Should I have done it? No probably not. Yes I’ve been on Top Chef Masters; I’ve been on Iron Chef. But with those – even though they’re reality shows – they’re still cooking shows. They’re not belittling people. They’re not talking to them like they’re ingrates. You see the same thing with cookbooks. People say, ‘Don’t take the plastic handled pan and put it in oven – it will melt.’ Really? Like we didn’t know that? Plastic melts when it goes in the oven. Over ninety-nine percent of country knows that.
Also, people will watch zombies eat people on television but can’t watch an animal be harvested to be served as food. They’ll watch a gang movie where people are murdering each other but they cant watch someone slaughter a turkey for thanksgiving. Is that fucked up? Am I wrong? Where’s the disconnect here? Why is this happening? Isn’t Walking Dead the number one show right now? People keep telling me about it. And they say I’m fucked up because I serve organ meat? People are watching zombies eat people, gangs murder one another and rape women, but they won’t watch the food process. That’s what’s fucked up about television. People don’t want to know where their food comes from and that is sad to me. Everyone wants things sugar coated and I don’t agree with that. Killing, eating human flesh, beating each other to death is natural on television but yet the food process is not. That’s why food TV is fucked up.
What does a web series allow you to do, that you can’t do on television?
The web series gives me complete freedom and complete control. It ended up actually being what I had wanted it to be originally. I can wear what I want to wear, say what I want to say and do what I want to do and not be held back by sponsors. I’m not worried if I say Carvel is a horrible company or Smithfield Pork is garbage. I wont be edited by the overlord – which happens all the time. Smithfield Pork is the number one sponsor of The Food Network. The web series has allowed me to do what I want and talk to people that are really great people. There are a lot of cool little spots out there and a lot of cool things to see and do. It’s exciting to have that freedom.