I was born and raised in Chicago, descended from Southern folk who migrated to the north in the early 20th Century. In college in the 1970’s, I formally studied philosophy but spent most of my time in the music department playing jazz, which is what I had wanted to do, anyway. Through a surprise living situation that led to a lifelong friendship – and much culinary exploration – I became enchanted with cooking; thoughts of becoming a chef took over, and In 1976, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in pursuit of that dream.
After settling in Berkeley, I worked at Narsai’s, owned by restaurateur Narsai David. His business comprised a restaurant, food market, and bakery. Though I took the position at Narsai’s as a temporary job, I stayed for 10 years, running the catering division of the Narsai’s empire. We created the esteemed Narsai’s Café at I. Magnin San Francisco and the private donors’ lounge 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.I began curing meats – initially prosciutto – in a temperature-and-humidity-controlled shed we built behind the restaurant. During my tenure as chef, we received Four Stars from the San Francisco Chronicle; were named "Best Restaurant in America" in 2001 by Gourmet Magazine; and were ranked number twelve in the world by the British trade journal Restaurant magazine.
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 co-created the adored and influential Pop Up General Store, an Oakland-based food artisan incubator for a 15-member group of cooks, bakers, farmers, and craftsmen. Pop Up General Store was one of the very first of its kind. We had a huge local following, and established the format for many similar pop-ups to follow, in the Bay Area and elsewhere.
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. I continue to consult for kitchens and salumeria in the U.S. and Europe. I hold regular pop-ups with my handmade sausages, salumi, and classic Italian specialties.
@2018 christopher lee