Cochon555 Chef Profile - Jamie Bissonnette

Fabricating the Truth


Fabrication: 1 a: invent , create b: to make up for the purpose of deception

2: construct , manufacture ; specifically : to construct from diverse and usually standardized parts


“Fabrication” in cooking is not about deception, but about truth. If we’re going to kill an animal for food, isn’t it more honest to use the whole animal rather than just the chops, steaks and maybe the ribs?


So few chefs are familiar in ways to break down and use the whole hog that Chef Bissonnette has created quite a little silk purse from sows’ ears. And we’re all the better for it. He notes “sausage and pâté making kind of took a hiatus - and now are much more popular again.” Of course, he’s part of the reason why they are. His fabrication classes, his charcuterie classes - they’re almost always sold out. Whether he’s in a culinary school setting or something aimed at more adventurous home cooks, people are delighted to be rediscovering these food preservation methods. Upcoming classes include one for chefs where he’ll teach them how to make money through nose to tail fabrication. He’s even featured (along with which one of our other Cochon555 Chefs?) in the Chefs Collaborative Pork Report. (email me for a link or check the Chefs Collaborative site, here)


Bissonnette, now at Toro Restaurant in the South End, is excited to be involved with the upcoming pigfest that is Cochon555. 




As Bissonnette sees it, using the whole hog is all about “a cook’s quest for the best ingredients.” Even if he uses pea greens from Eva’s and Jim Cook’s carrots, he doesn’t necessarily announce the origin of every ingredient he’s serving them. But he does want people to know he’s constantly trying to source the best ingredients, from pigs to pea greens. 


Bissonnette knows it’s not easy to get the best information and that to many chefs a lot of this is new. He himself didn’t grow up anywhere near a farm and he had to learn that a “Berkshire” hog was a breed of hog, not an appellation. Kurobuta was a buzzword for awhile, but he saw too many chefs led astray by the “trust your purveyor” mentality. In fact, if you’re talking about Kobe you’re probably selling me Wagyu. True Kurobuta in Vermont? Nope.


For Bissonnette it’s about the quality of the product and the quality of the relationships. Those things hang in the balance together. Developing one-on-one relationships with the farmers themselves, not relying on middlemen, Bissonnette can see how the pigs he serves were raised. He can take the butchers offal that others are not using and make something wonderful with them. That’s less waste, better product, and more efficient use of resources.


The taste experience is one that drives Bissonnette, like any good chef. He feels the greatest injustice ever done to the American public was the “Other White Meat” campaign which paired lean tasteless factory farmed meat with “pork” - and for many consumers, the two became one. Rediscovery of the pleasure of pork, as it was meant to be, is something of a quest for Bissonnette. He’s delighted to be working in a small plate format at Toro.


Since moving there from KO Prime, he has expanded Toro's menu, takes whole hogs in often, utilizing the whole hog, nose to tail. He roasts at least one suckling pig a week. He can utilize the parts that other chefs might not use, and make tasty dishes that are small plates and affordable prices. This is an easier introduction to these new (actually old) dishes for many customers, too.


He gleefully says he's “using brains and hearts and kidneys and people dig it.”  The Toro small plates give him flexibility and “people are willing to try small plates of maybe 2 oz. or 4 oz. of calves brains for example, and you couldn’t really eat much more than that, anyway." Small plates running around $6.00 are bigger than hors d’oeuvres and smaller than entrees and allow people to experiment.


I can’t wait to report on my first meal at Toro. Stay tuned.


Bissonnette trivia:


  1. Other than his cleaver and butchers knife, what other straight edge is important to this chef?
  2. What do Bissonnette and Zombies have in common?
  3. What do Bissonnette and Tallahassee have in common besides Florida?
  4. True or False - Bissonnette was once a cheese ambassador? 
  5. True or False - Bissonnette was once a vegetarian?




Here are the answers to last week’s Chef Profile Quiz: 

How well do you know Chef Jason Bond? Here’s a little true/false quiz:

1. Chef Bond was raised on a ranch in Wyoming. True

2. Like other chefs, he studied music in Boston before turning to cooking. False he studied music before moving to Boston and turning to cooking.

3. He studied cheese and charcuterie in France. True

4. He’s worked at Relais and Chateaux properties. True

5. He helped open B&G Oysters and The Butcher Shop. True

6. He knows his way around chocolates and cannele. True