I was born and raised in Chicago, descended from Southern folk who migrated to the north in the early 20th Century. I studied philosophy in college in the 1970's, but spent most of my time in the music department playing jazz, which is what I had wanted to study in school, anyway. Through a friendship and accidental living situation, I became enchanted with cooking, and thoughts of becoming a chef took over. In 1976, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to pursue my dreams.
After settling in Berkeley, I began work at Narsai’s, owned by restaurateur Narsai David. His business comprised a restaurant, food market, and bakery. Though I took it as a temporary job, I stayed there for 10 years, running the catering division of the Narsai’s empire. During this time, I created, along with Narsai, the esteemed Narsai’s Café at I. Magnin San Francisco and at the Wattis Room at Davies Symphony Hall. .
I then joined the kitchen of Chez Panisse Restaurant, where I stayed for over 15 years, eventually rising to Chef of the downstairs restaurant. There, I began curing meats – initially prosciutto – in a temperature-and-humidity-controlled shed we built behind the restaurant. During my tenure as chef, the restaurant received Four Stars from the San Francisco Chronicle; was named "Best Restaurant in America" in 2001 by Gourmet Magazine; and was ranked number twelve in the world by Restaurant magazine, a British trade journal.
In 2004, I opened my own restaurant, Eccolo, in Berkeley, where our food received three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, and was for many years one of its “Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area.”
I later created the adored and influential Pop Up General Store, an Oakland-based food artisan incubator that comprised a 15-member group of cooks, bakers, farmers, and craftsmen. Pop Up General Store was the first of its kind. It had a huge local following, and established the format for many similar pop-ups to follow.
In 2011, I created the salumeria and salumi program at il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, in NY. We were awarded 3 Stars by the New York Times in 2012. Over the following 8 years, I consulted for kitchens in NY and Europe.
Today, I consult for restaurants, salumerias, and butcheries in the U.S. and in Europe, and continue to regularly create pop ups featuring my handmade sausages, salumi, and classic Italian specialties.
@2018 christopher lee