From France to Phoenix to ... Williamsport!

Published 09.05.1997

Business, Arts & Sciences
Baking & Culinary

From France to Phoenix to ... Williamsport. That's the route being taken by one of America's best young chefs as he takes center stage at Pennsylvania College of Technology's next Visiting Chef Dinner, set for Friday, Sept. 12, in Le Jeune Chef Restaurant on the College campus.

Chef Christopher J. Gross, chef and proprietor of the acclaimed Christopher's in Phoenix, will work side-by-side with Penn College hospitality students and faculty to produce the elegant French dining experience. Proceeds from the event benefit a scholarship fund for the hospitality students.

The menu will begin with Christopher's smoked salmon salad with Ahi tuna tartar; wild mushroom soup with Hudson Valley foie gras and essence of chervil and port; and white fish in tomato consume with tomato mousse and fresh herbs. Next will be sirloin marinated in white truffle oil and lightly smoked, served with a Middle Eastern grain (fareki) and a shallot bone-marrow sauce. The experience will be topped off with Christopher's famously decadent "Chocolate Tower."

Seating is still available and can be obtained by contacting Dawn Wolfe at Penn College at (570) 320-8000.

In addition to Christopher's, Gross operates three other Phoenix establishments: Christopher's Bistro, Christopher's Cellar, and Christopher's Wine and Cigar Club.

This year, he was the first chef in Arizona to receive the honor of the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence. In 1995, Gross was named the Perrier Jouet, Best Chef of the Southwest by the James Beard Foundation, and, in 1989, "Food and Wine Magazine" appointed him one of America's10 best new chefs. His restaurants have garnered prestigious accolades from "Gourmet," "Conde Nast," "Wine Spectator," "Bon Appetit," "Connoisseur," "Home Beautiful" and "The New York Times," to name a few. "Travel Leisure" has written, "Gross is a true master of the kitchen arts."

Originally from Missouri, Gross moved to Phoenix when he was 12, and began working in kitchens at the early age of 14 in order to buy and ride Motocross bikes. Developing a love for cooking, in addition to motorcycles, he expanded his culinary skills at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, followed by a year in a small restaurant in London. He then snared a position with the famed Chez Albert in Paris. It was there that he first tasted foie gras, truffles and caviar, and learned the importance of attention to detail.

Upon returning to the United States, Gross worked at L'Orangerie in Los Angeles, and then returned to Phoenix where he was the chef de cuisine at La Champagne at the Registry Resort in Scottsdale and eventually chef/partner at Le Relais in Scottsdale.

In 1990, he opened Christopher's, which offers the ultimate in contemporary French dining elegance, and Christopher's Bistro, a more casual dining room serving American regional cuisine with a distinct French flair. His retail wine salon, Christopher's Wine Shop, is located in the bistro and offers more than 80 wines by the glass, expert advice, and esoteric and hard-to-find wines. Christopher's Wine and Cigar Club is situated above the restaurants and is devoted to the art of fine wines and great cigars. All are located in the heart of Phoenix's Biltmore Financial Center.

In 1993, he married Paola Embry, a native of Chile. She serves as wine and service director for his restaurants and, under her direction, the wine lists have been honored by "Wine Spectator." The couple have become dominating figures in the food and wine industry, offering their collective talents by consulting for Club Med, Crystal Cruises, Disney and others.

For Gross, cooking is not only a career, but a passion he enjoys sharing through cooking classes on television and feature articles in "Arizona Cigar Lover's Magazine." As well, not a day goes by that he is not in his dining rooms, talking, laughing and sharing with his quests.

The chef's experience, dedication and passion are the perfect ingredients for Penn College's Visiting Chef Series.