Chris was born and raised in Virginia, where he first developed his love for barbecue, spicy food and live fire cookery. He entered the food service industry at age 18, when he left college and became a dishwasher. Fascinated by the intense energy and teamwork that are the heart of any restaurant kitchen, Chris went on to become a line cook, then decided to pursue a formal culinary education at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) where he graduated in 1977.
Following his graduation from the CIA in 1977, Chris worked in many different restaurants, working with New England's most innovative chefs during the first blossoming of nouvelle cuisine. He also continued his extensive travels to regions featuring overhead waves and low 80's temperatures, where he honed his fondness for loud flavors, seafood, and live fire cooking.
In 1985 Chris opened the East Coast Grill, in 1989, Jake and Earl's Dixie BBQ, in 1991, The Blue Room, and in 1999, The Back Eddy in Westport, MA. All of these received national attention. Chris sold the East Coast Grill in 2012 and passed on the traditions to the new owners, long standing employees of the restaurant, whom share the same visions and goals as Chris and will bring new energy to the restaurant.
Chris is the co-author (with John Willoughby) of eight cookbooks: the James Beard Cookbook Award winner, Thrill of the Grill (Morrow, 1990); Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys, and Chowchows (Morrow, 1993); Big Flavors of the Hot Sun (Morrow, 1994); Lettuce in Your Kitchen (Morrow, 1996); License to Grill (Morrow, 1997); How to Cook Meat (Morrow, 2000); Quick Pickles (Chronicle, 2001) and Let the Flames Begin (Norton, 2002). They also have been featuring a monthly feature in The New York Times, and have written numerous articles for magazines such as GQ and Food & Wine. Chris is also a Contributing Editor for SAVEUR magazine.
An accomplished cooking teacher, Chris has taught culinary students at his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, in both the New York and Napa Valley campuses. Chris has appeared on dozens of television shows around the USA to talk about food and cooking, has been a guest speaker at numerous conferences, and has been featured in over 200 magazine and newspaper articles.
Chris is the winner of the 1996 James Beard Awards "Best Chef of the Northeast."