Renowned Valley Chef Christopher Gross has a 30-year history of award-winning restaurants in the Arcadia area. His personal commendations and awards started early in his career in 1989, after he made Food & Wine magazine’s list of America’s 10 Best New Chefs. He was one of the early recipients of the James Beard Award in 1995 and in 2016 he earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Scottsdale Culinary Hall of Fame.
After wrapping up Christopher’s and Crush Lounge in the Biltmore, Gross is now ensconced at the Wrigley Mansion. Over the last several years he and owner Jamie Hormel have worked to enhance the food, wine and dining at the Phoenix Point of Pride.
Where did you learn to cook?
Everywhere! I started in Phoenix when I was 17 and then moved to Los Angeles to further my career. I then worked in London, Paris, Normandy and back to California. I returned to Phoenix in 1982.
What is your all-time favorite dish to make?
So many things… from something simple like a roasted chicken to anything Foie Gras.
After so many years in the business, what would you say is your favorite thing about being a chef?
I love to meet new people and travel. I have been lucky to have been flown all over the world to cook.
Describe the signature cooking style you’re recognized for.
French-inspired using a lot of local farm products.
What celebrity would you like to cook for?
I am lucky to have cooked for a lot of celebrities but there is nothing more satisfying and fun than to cook for friends in the business.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in the kitchen recently?
Good cooks are getting harder and harder to find.
You won the prestigious James Beard Award in 1995. How does it feel to be a winner?
I’m very honored, of course. The awards were started in 1990, so it was a surprise for me to have won so early on, especially with all that was going on with chefs in America.
Over the last several years, you’ve helped overhaul the kitchen and the food and wine offerings at the Wrigley Mansion. What can people now expect from dining at the Wrigley Mansion?
People can expect a wonderful experience because we have many different venues to choose from. We have a wine bar, a recently renovated cocktail lounge and a dining room with spectacular views. We have a nice diverse menu with locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients. We probably have the most unique chef’s table in Arizona.
What have been some other highlights of your career as a chef?
Cooking with Julia Child and working with her on one of her PBS series.
What’s the best piece of cooking advice you’ve ever received?
Told to me by Pastry Chef MOF Paul Koeberle in Lyon, France: work hard, arrive early, listen and learn from every place you work. And when you feel it’s time for your first position, take the best of what you have learned from everywhere and then use that to create.
You’ve worked with a lot of talented chefs, but if you had to choose who would be your hero in the kitchen?
French Chef Michel Richard, who unfortunately passed away in 2016.
What is your favorite comfort food?
Just about anything from Los dos Molinos.
What is your go-to recipe and your “quick bite” meal?
Roast chicken is my go-to and my favorite quick meal is anything I can have heavily buttered, like toasted bread.
What are you passionate about outside of the kitchen?
My girlfriend, eating, drinking, traveling and motorcycles.
What advice do you have for people who want to become a chef?
It’s not a part time job; you better love the good with the bad.
There’s a lot of kitchen shows and reality cooking competitions out there. Do you have a favorite one?
Taco Chronicles on Netflix. It always makes me hungry.
What is a dish you haven’t mastered yet that you’re still working on?