Chef Christopher Eagle
Cielo | Boca Raton
With only 30 course hours remaining, Christopher Eagle left college
and went to culinary school, drawn into the industry by the energy
and passion he had experienced while working at restaurants during
school. Eagle jumped on board at Johnson and Wales’ culinary
program in Charleston, and finished the program in just 15 months.
After school he did what so many culinary grads think they’re going to do – he moved right into a sous chef position at Brasserie Le Coze in Atlanta, Georgia. Eagle’s pre-culinary school experience no doubt lent itself to the task, which led him to his next sous chef position under Chef Troy Thompson at Fusebox. Today, Eagle’s time with Thompson shines through in the refreshing simplicity and elegance of Eagle’s cuisine.
After Atlanta, Eagle moved west to work as executive sous chef at The Ritz-Carlton Aspen, and then moved to LA for an executive chef position at JAAN, the restaurant in Raffles L’Ermitage Beverly Hills. In January 2007 he moved to Boca Raton as the head chef of Cielo, British chef Angela Hartnett’s first venture in the US.
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AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
CE: Brasserie Le Coze and Fusebox with Troy Thompson, The Ritz-Carlton at Aspen, and L'Ermitage at Raffles Hotel in LA.
AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
CE: I went to Johnson & Wales in Charleston. I think that schools need to get more up to date with what is happening in kitchens today. Kids coming out need to understand what really happens in a professional kitchen. But I think the background you get in culinary school is great. Whatever you put in you are going to get out of it. It's about your attitude.
AB: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
CE: Troy Thompson taught me respect and importance of ingredients, and how to cross the classical lines of cuisine. We clicked on a personal level as well. Thomas Keller and Alain Ducasse are mentors in a distant, inspirational sense. Also Gunter Seeger – he was at Fuse Box with us.
AB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for a position in your kitchen? What sort of answer are you looking for?
CE: I ask them what cookbooks they are reading. It says a lot about how dedicated they are.
AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
CE: Being passionate about your career is going to take you far. You need to be dedicated and study, outside of what you learn in the kitchen. Use the internet and cookbooks; read as much as you can.
AB: Is there an ingredient that you feel is underappreciated or underutilized?
CE: Acids and vinegars. I am a big fan - they balance flavors. That includes wine as well.
AB: What are your favorite flavor combinations?
CE: White wine and vanilla beans; brown butter and fish; foie and fruit; duck and fruit – all classical lines. Though I do also appreciate some of the new flavor combinations we are seeing.
AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
AB: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or borrowed and use in an unusual way?
CE: Poaching foie gras – I read it in Thomas Keller’s book. Keller poaches it in chicken stock. We do it in duck fat. I read about the fat-in-fat concept in Alain Ducasse's book.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
CE: Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook, Ducasse's Encyclopedia, Michel Bras Essential Cuisine, and the el Bulli cookbooks.
AB: Where would you like to go for culinary travel?
CE: Spain, because they are pushing the envelope. It's the epicenter of cuisine today.
AB: What are your favorite restaurants – off the beaten path – in your city?
CE: Hong Kong Palace in Boca Raton – I like the house fried rice.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
CE: I try to keep things classically and simply prepared. I don't like to mask my flavors or dress my plates with too many components. There is a proper way to sear, poach, braise, and sauté. Working here has definitely taught me that. Service needs to be inviting, relaxed, but still spot-on.
AB: Who would you most like to cook for you?
CE: I would like to have Eric Ripert cook for me.
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
CE: I’d be a criminal profiler or a film maker. I am a big CSI fan!
AB: What’s next for you? Where will we find you in 5 years?
CE: This is a chef-driven company. When I was working in a hotel it was more about management. Now I'm back on the creative side of things. I would like to go to Europe for a while – I still think I have a lot to learn. My ultimate goal is not to open my own place. I'd like to expand with this company; they have big plans.
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