Christopher Gross of Christopher's and Crush Lounge Makes Pied De Cochon (VIDEO)
We're going behind the scenes and getting up close and personal with some of the Valley's favorite chefs, learning what it takes to make one of their best-known dishes. Welcome to The Trail.
Evie Carpenter Chef Christopher Gross in the kitchen at Christopher's.
Even at 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday, the kitchen at Christopher's is buzzing and hot. Really hot.
The Biltmore area dining spot won't open for another half an hour, but already there are cooks hustling around the U-shaped kitchen, most giving me unhappy glances as I try -- and mostly fail -- to stay out of the way. They're prepping and baking bread, checking stocks and doing everything else that needs to be done before service. Chef Christopher Gross oversees the whole operation.
Today we're in the kitchen to learn how Gross makes pied de cochon, a fancy French way of saying "pig's feet." The dish has been a Friday night special at the restaurant for quite some time and has been one of the chef's specialties for even longer.
Times and tastes have changed significantly since Gross first opened Christopher's and Christopher's Bistro in 1990. But Gross has done a good job of keeping up. The chef's namesake restaurant isn't the type of fussy, stuffy place you might picture when you think French cuisine. In mid-morning it's drenched in sunlight that highlights the restaurant's sleek, modern feel. A stainless steel kitchen bar gives diners a view of the action and a more casual dining option.
Clearly this chef hasn't made the mistake of getting caught up in doing classic French fare in a fine dining atmosphere. Sure, there are still France favorites on the menu for the true Francophiles, but Gross also offers pizzas, burgers, and other, less fancy, fare.
"This is still a rustic dish," Gross says of his pied de cochon.
Rustic, but classic. And a perfect fit for the restaurant.
Gross first learned to cook the classic French dish while he was cooking in France in 1978. After leaving the Valley to work in Los Angeles briefly, Gross landed a job in London and later in France at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Chez Albert.
"I don't think I've done veal head in a long time," Gross says. "When I worked in France we used to do that all the time."
Upon returning stateside in 1981, Gross went to put his experience abroad to good use at Los Angeles' iconic French restaurant, L'Orangerie. He returned to the Valley in 1983,
but didn't open his first joint venture until 1985; it was called Le Relais. For the next five years Gross would close the restaurant during summers to return to France and continue his study of French cuisine.
Gross still makes trips back to France (most recently in April of this year) to get inspiration and keep a finger on the pulse of the French dining scene. In fact, the idea for his small plates menu was inspired by a Parisian restaurant.
Even so, Gross has kept some classic dishes intact, like this one. The chef says its been on and off his menus, in one form or another, since 1978.