San Diego Zoo Executive Chef
Born in Bermuda, the son of an Air Force commander, Chris grew up at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and was supposed to follow in his father’s military footsteps—until he turned 14 and needed glasses. Instead, Chris took a job in an Italian restaurant and learned the ropes. By the time he was 20 years old, Chris was running restaurants: ordering food, designing menus, organizing staff, and learning how to prepare a wide variety of culinary styles. He has been with the Zoo for 13 years and thoroughly enjoys his profession. “The hours are long, and I always work on holidays, but I love my job and the energy that comes from a bustling restaurant with satisfied customers.”
Chris is committed to using local produce, sustainable seafood, and meat from local farms and vendors whenever possible. “I think it’s important to know where your tomatoes come from, both from a culinary perspective and a ‘green’ perspective.” He oversees the Zoo’s full-service restaurant and bar, Albert’s Restaurant, as well as the Treetops banquet room, the Catering Department at the Zoo, and the new Sabertooth Grill at Elephant Odyssey, which provides “farm to table” meals. “The sous chefs and I work collaboratively on creative menu ideas, and we work well as a team. The Zoo is supportive of employee development, and we empower our staff, which keeps everybody happy, including our customers. I think that’s why I have been here for so long.”
San Diego Zoo Chef
For the past few years, Charles has been the catering sous chef, serving up plated dinners for parties of up to 4,000 people. Presently, he is at Albert’s Restaurant. “I feel reinvigorated serving special dinners to our guests in the restaurants. I like the creative aspects of my job and keeping the customers happy.” He began his career path “back in the day” as a dishwasher and learned his craft through working at hotels, Los Angeles bistros, country clubs, and upscale diners in the Northeast, and he is now a key player at the San Diego Zoo. “I have had really diverse experiences, and each step has helped prepare me for this unique venue for a chef. It is amazing what we can create and accomplish from this kitchen!” This father of four finds time to cook for his family, enjoys brewing homemade beer, and recently built his own meat smoker.