During his junior year of high school, Chris cleared tables, did kitchen prep, and washed dishes at the Silver Cricket Restaurant to make extra gas money, never entertaining the idea of making a career out of cooking. But after his mother passed away and Chris took a gap year before starting college, the restaurant’s chef pulled him into the kitchen for good. “For that year it was just him and me and an 18×24-inch cutting board. He told me, ‘Hey, this is where we’re going to figure it all out this year. Just you and me cooking,’” Chris recalls. One culinary degree, two restaurants, a James Beard Foundation Award, a cookbook, and an Iron Chef America victory later, it’s clear that Chris found his passion—and the people of Birmingham are glad he did.