Historically, thoughts of Texas have brought to mind wide open plains, cattle, and cowboy hats, rodeos, oil rigs, country-western songs, and BBQ.
While much of this may still be true, today the ‘front burner’ identity of the Longhorn State shines with strong elements of diverse edge, art, global-culture, and what many are calling the gastronomic revolution of Texas, beckoning the best and brightest in the field.
It’s no surprise then that Chef-Restauranteurextraordinaire, Chris Cosentino, winner of Top Chef Masters and co-owner of San Francisco’s Cockscomb, Jackrabbit in Portland, Oregon, and Acacia House in the Napa Valley, opened his first restaurant in Houston, Rosalie, Italian Soul, on October 15, 2019, with his business partner Oliver Wharton in Downtown Houston’s historic C. Baldwin Hotel.
Rosalie, the namesake of Cosentino’s Italian immigrant grandmother pays homage to her cooking, authentic rustic Italian cooking, as well as and Chris’s coveted nostalgia of learning how to make and crank out pasta by hand with Rosalie when he was a boy.
“This food represents immigrant cuisine in America,” said Chris. “When Italians immigrated to the U.S., it was difficult to acquire the same product that they had at home in Italy. This is why Italian-American food was created. Ingenuity happened. I’m taking a lot of the dishes that I grew up with and breathing in a little bit of new life—in this little region of Italy known as Houston.”
This ‘new life’ Cosentino ‘breaths’ into his menu at the exquisite Italian vibey, midcentury designed ‘Rosalie’ (by Rohe Creative.)
CW Magazine was thrilled to catch the creative, fun-loving, whirling dervish that is Chef Chris Cosentino for a moment to learn more about his fascinating ability to juggle a plethora projects, as well as a personal life, and to alas, get his take on what we like to call: The Gastronomic Revolution of Texas.
Why Houston for your beautiful Rosalie?
Houston is a dynamic and vibrant city. The food culture there is incredible and growing so fast. With so many different types of foods and cultures, it was a great feeling when I visited the city. People were so welcoming and kind, I knew it would be a great fit. It’s hard to not want to be part of such a beautiful property in the heart of downtown with so much rich history and our amazing partnership with C. Baldwin hotel was able to bring it to life.
How does Houston stand out compared to SF, Napa, and Portland in terms of its own urban identity?
Each city is so unique and different in its own way. Each with so much to offer. It’s not something I would ever try and compare. Houston is a very diverse city with an amazing love of food, killer BBQ and a huge passion for Vietnamese food. Fusions, such as ‘vietcajun,’ are delicious, and so much more. I love it. Every time I go to Houston there is always something new to try and taste. Houston is an amazing city with so much to offer; a vast variety of different foods and cultures, it’s an honor to be able to open a venue here.
You have been described as a ‘spinning top of energy.’ How do you keep from spreading yourself too thin?
I am always trying to stay ahead and am fortunate enough to have figured out how to benefit from my A.D.D. to be able to get a bunch of different things done at once. But I am far from perfect; I’m lucky enough to work with a great team of people who fill in the blanks where I need help.
Do you feel more akin to one of your venues than the other?
Each restaurant represents the rich culinary history of each city; they are all about time and place. I believe history is the key to understanding a place and its food, so I really try to focus on that with each property. I want every guest to walk away with a unique experience. Each restaurant has its own distinct personalities and qualities which allows us to be able to give guests an amazing and different experience with each property they visit.
What aspect of your work do you find most gratifying?
Making people happy is the most gratifying part of our work; to be able to connect with people and build taste memories that will last a lifetime through food and experience.
What experience has shaped you the most as a chef?
There is not just one experience that has shaped me. There are so many things that have pushed me along the way. I think failing has been the most prominent factor as well as knowing when to ask for help.
Please share about Chefs Cycle, No Kid Hungry. How did you get involved?
I join the chef cycle team 5 years ago on the coast ride, it was an amazing experience; being able to help children by riding our bikes in beautiful places. Knowing that every $1 we raise provides 10 meals to children in need is what will push me to continue.
Advice to young chefs?
Don’t try to be the boss too fast. Slow it down and stay at a place and really learn it. Find a mentor and stick with them for an extended period; read cookbooks, focus on the craft and not just being famous. Focus on being the best cook ever and everything will fall into place.
Working with CW. Thoughts?
It has been great to be able to work directly with CW. They have always been reliable and efficient, which are very important components when it comes to choosing a distributor.
What is the best part of what you do, i.e. what about it brings you happiness?
As chefs, we give taste memories, which are so powerful in so many ways. Holidays, anniversaries, graduations, and engagements are all big and important moments in people’s lives; and to be able to share that with them and a great meal is truly amazing.
What is the most challenging aspect of all that you do?
I think the most difficult part is learning to divide my time properly between all properties, but most of all is having balance between work and my personal life.
Any future plans?
There is always something that looks like fun or I want to do but the key is knowing when to stay put and focus on what you are doing at the moment. I feel that it’s best to keep focusing on getting better each day at what you have before trying to always do more.
Your great grandmother Rosalie was a proud Italian Immigrant. Can you speak to the respect and gratitude we as Americans should have for our immigrants?
This country is built on immigrants. We forget that the only non-immigrants are the Native Americans. We are a melting pot of people who bring their dreams to the U.S in hopes for better; better life, better future, better tomorrow. I am proud of my heritage, both English & Italian, understanding our past and why we came to the US will help us to become better people.