Chef Christopher Israel of Grüner - Biography

Portland, OR

April 2011

Chef Christopher Israel's interest in food and entertaining began at a young age—he spent countless hours helping his mother and both grandmothers in the kitchen. His interest blossomed in college when he worked at restaurants in the Bay Area while studying at UC Berkeley. One of his mentors from this period was Joyce Goldstein at Square One Restaurant in San Francisco. Israel worked there for four years, absorbing the hallmarks of exceptional service, inspired seasonal cooking, and the great diversity of the Mediterranean kitchen.

1990 found him in Portland, opening Zefiro, with two partners. It was named Restaurant of the Year by The Oregonian in 1991. The lively bistro was the beginning of many a Portland chef’s career. Despite its success, Israel decided to take a four-month sabbatical, during which he traveled throughout Asia. Israel and Carey opened Saucebox in 1995 to tap into his interest in Asian influences. In 1999, Israel took a break from the kitchen and moved to New York City to pursue a career in graphic design. There he spent six years as associate art director for Vanity Fair, a Condé Nast publication. He returned to Portland in 2005, and the following year stepped back into the kitchen as executive chef at 23Hoyt, which was subsequently chosen by Esquire magazine as one of 2007’s ten best new restaurants in America. In 2010, Israel opened Grüner where he currently explores alpine-inspired cooking. Most recently, Israel was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award as Best Chef in the Northwest.