Rocking Out in the Kitchen: An interview with Nose-To-Tail Chef Jamie Bissonnette

By: Cyndi Amaya

Recently, we've been hearing a lot of buzz about nose-to-tail cooking, where chefs use virtually all parts of the animal, including the offal parts for different meals and dishes. This newfound love for using all parts of the animal is finding its way into kitchens all over the country, as people are starting to learn about sustainability and resourcefulness through cuisine.

Likewise, one chef in particular has become quite the newsworthy fellow for not only his nose-to-tail cooking style but also as Food&Wine's 2011 People's Best New Chef- Chef Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston. This budding chef rocks out in the kitchen (both literally and figuratively) as he pours his passion into his food and nose-to-tail cooking at Coppa. I caught up with Jamie as we discussed everything from nose-to-tail cuisine, music in the kitchen, and going from vegan to omnivore.

Check out what this Rising Star Chef had to say:

Tell me more about yourself and your culinary background.

I grew up in Hartford, CT and attended culinary school at 17. I went to the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute, graduated in 1996. I then moved to Boston, and traveled every 4-6 months around the country staging, and working. I came back to Boston in 2001 and have stayed ever since.

Tell me a bit about how you went from being vegetarian to a now lover of everything pork and specialize in nose-to-tail cuisine.

I was working with meat, and required to taste things. My chef at the time told me if I wanted to be a real chef, I had to eat everything to understand the flavors and how things could work together. Sink or swim pretty much, and I went to being an omnivore within a week.

As a former vegetarian and vegan, I didn't want to waste food. Watching all restaurants in the 90's use the same cuts, the same proteins I was curious as to what happened to the rest of the animal. I asked if we could get more variety in or whole animals. When we did, the chef would let me use the scraps to make family meal and eventually specials like pate and sausages.

Why do you particularly love nose-to-tail cooking? Do you think a lot of chefs are getting into this type of cooking because it's a trend, economic reasons, or a newfound love for new ingredients?

I love nose to tail cooking for its versatility and the challenge. Almost any cook can be taught to make great salad, glazed carrots or sauteed fish. Taking something inherently bad tasting and creating a delicious dish takes finesse and a knowing hand.

Like anything that gets recognition there will be people jumping on it as a trend, but more so I think that our community of cooks around the country have better access to the information that makes nose-to-tail cooking approachable.

You're known as quite the punk rock chef. Do you get a lot of your inspiration for your dishes from the music you listen to?

My moods change when I listen to music that moves me. I love Hardcore, ska, punk, jazz, and some old hip hop. We listen to a lot of Chicago and Danzig in the kitchen as well.

Are you more of an Operation Ivy/Rancid ska-core lover or Catch22/Reel Big Fish ska lover? Do you often times find yourself 'skanking' while you cook?

I've never skanked in the kitchen, but I have a 2Tone tattoo on my arm. I'd be more Rancid/Op Ivy, or older stuff like Desmond Dekker or Jimmy Cliff.

Congrats on Coppa, Rising Star Chef, and Food & Wine's People's Best New Chef! Any new projects or goals you're currently working on?

Working on a new restaurant, and I'd love to open another Toro someday. Until then, I'm putting my records in alphabetical order and make pasta and paella.

Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Bissonnette

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