Born: Astoria, Queens
Grew up: Queens and Jersey
Places of Higher Learning: Natural Gourmet Institute and CUNY Kingsborough (Exercise Science)
Chris on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
“I had always been kind of a “dreamer” and not a “doer”. The author tries to reconcile between romantic notions of quality (or, what is “good”) and pragmatic notions of quality and develop a view point and way of living that includes both. I became focused on being less “romantic” than I had been in the past after reading it. It was kind of like…I wanted to still see the world as a beautiful, sometimes mysterious place, but also learn how to function in it and achieve goals in a way that was as productive and useful as possible. I became more goal oriented and action based than I had been. Also I stopped throwing away old stuff and started repairing or learning how to repair it.”
On the surface, Chris’ life is all zig zags, but when you look closer, you find that his ability to turn his instincts into opportunities is the thru line that creates cohesion.
Raised in a milieau of broken homes and rooftop play, Chris’ family was no exception. Early on, his parents split, and he and his brother were raised by his Mom and Stepdad. A pudgy kid, Chris was into oreo cookies, his bmx mongoose, punch ball, imitating WWF with his friends and Manhunt – a game that involved chasing each other from roof to roof around the neighborhood, parkour style. It was a chaotic youth of parent/child clashes, family alcoholism and book report avoidance.
Late in his childhood, Chris’ Mom and Stepdad moved the family to Jersey, which resulted in serious culture shock. People in Jersey were friendly. They, like, smiled and said hi. It creeped Chris out. Maybe that’s why he fled back to Yonkers after a final bout with Mom, who’d really had enough of Chris’ affinity for stirring the pot. (Don’t worry, they patched things up later.)
At that point, Chris made the decision to earn a living rather than get into debt over school loans. He was living with a girl, making good money working with his Dad in retail and growing up. The girl didn’t last too long and he ended up back in Jersey with another girl who became his wife and eventually birthed his two kids. Wife, job, then kids… yeah, a lot was happening in his early 20’s. But the growing up thing was taking place on an interior level as well.
On the Road was the first novel Chris picked up, read and enjoyed. It was a revelatory experience for him – enjoying a book. He started reading more, studying eastern philosophy and exploring his definition of health. Finally, the pudgy kid who was always a little uncomfortable with is shirt off began to prioritize how he ate; it was vegetarianism that first took hold. For Chris, vegetarianism was primarily about health. He was quickly shedding his youthful attachments to candy and wrestling in favor of yogurt smoothies and yoga. He started cooking, developing compassion, and he let everybody know about it. Yeah, he got a little grandiose about the whole thing, but he’s toned it down since then.
So Chris was doing his hippy, veg, yogic thing with his wife, the food network was starting to boom and he was working retail. Cool, but the retail thing was getting old. Maybe it was time to do something else. Why not build on what he had going in his personal life and go to culinary school? He could go to school, become a chef and then get a show on the Food Network. Perfect. So he enrolled in the Natural Gourmet Institute. Step one, check. Next, internship and then job at Candle Cafe, the dream restaurant. Step two, in progress. Except… life in the restaurant biz was damned hard with little financial reward. Rude awakening number one. But he was happy, so he kept going.
On the personal front, Chris was starting to feel unwell as a vegetarian. His sleep was bad, he was losing too much weight and he realized if he wanted to be healthy, he needed some animal protein. He started with eggs and dairy, expanded to fish and so on. Once gain, the personal influenced professional: Chris decided it was time to learn how to cook animals. He left Candle Cafe, did a brief, overwhelming stint at a BBQ place, and landed at Cafe O, an organic cafe uptown.
The kitchen at Cafe O was crazy. Chef Michael was slinging booze, everything was all over the place and Chris absolutely loved it. He proved himself worthy by working his way up the stations to Chef’s side. Things were going great – Step two totally in the bag. Until the chicken incident. See, Chris had On Principle skipped the butchering classes at Natural Gourmet, so when he had to halve a chicken for the first time at Cafe O, he nearly halved his left hand in the process. He fled in a bundle of bloody napkins, skipped the emergency room and nursed his wounds at home, too embarrassed to go back to the restaurant. A few days later, the Chef called and told him to get his butt back in there, all was ok.
Except that it wasn’t. Weird stuff was going down at Cafe O that lead to Chef Michael’s departure with Chris on deck to be chef (finally, Step two!). Then one day the kitchen was mysteriously on fire, the place closed down and Chris had to steal back his knives before they were sold on auction. He found a payphone, called Candle Cafe and asked if they were hiring. It turned out the head chef was getting ready to leave, so back he went to train up for the job. Step two was finally going to happen.
Life at home, however, was not so good. His marriage was ending and he was pretty depressed.
At the restaurant, she was a hardass to everyone else, but all smiles with Chris, always asking him to hang out. Chris didn’t know what “hanging out” meant. He was married and a dad barely out of his teens; he never really had the chance to “hang out.” The idea weirded him out. Plus, he was too depressed, so he kept saying no. One night, he said no as usual, got in his car and was driving home when he suddenly thought “What am I doing? What am I going home to? I should just go and meet people, what the hell.” So he turned around, went back to the restaurant and waited for Jess to get off work. They went to Bull McCabe’s, immediately fell into hours of conversation and that was that. A latina girl with mid-western sensibilities. Chris was in.
Now the restaurant gig wasn’t really jiving with single Dad life. It’s tough to see kids on the weekend when you’ve got to work the brunch shift; it was time to find something new. Chris tried other options in the food world, but it just wasn’t for him. Step three – off the table. Instead, he did what anyone would do: collected unemployment. He had lots of time, so he joined a gym (the infamous Urban Total Fitness) and started working out. Characteristically, he got so interested in working out that he thought, why not try to earn a living at it? He went back to school for Exercise Science and figured he’d be a trainer. Just as with cooking, it was a rough start financially and he nearly threw in the towel. Rude awakening number two. But he kept at it (with Jess’ support) and finally started to earn something of a living.
He heard about CrossFit through T-Nation and started playing around with it. He and his buddy Izzy (now an owner of CF 718) used to do WODs together at NYSC until Chris found out about CFSBK. He stalked us for a while and finally came in for a teaser, where Jacinto kicked his ass. Again, he totally loved it. He and David kept up an email correspondence as Chris tried to figure his way into the place. His persistence yet again paid off, and now he’s a permanent fixture.
Almost went to school for engineering.
Owns two motorcycles, one that works and one that doesn’t.
Recently took up surfing.
Metallica and Slayer are some of his fav bands
Plays guitar and was in some punk bands as a kid.
One of the original b-boys.
Favorite way to eat eggs:
Poached so the yolks are thick and unctuous with rye bread to sop it up. Or else fried easy.