Chef Christopher Gross pays painstaking attention to every aspect of his eponymous restaurant at the Wrigley Mansion (photo by Darryl Webb, special for North Central News).

For Christopher Gross, the divine is in the details.

Gross, whose culinary bona fides include the James Beard Award and Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence, pays painstaking attention to every aspect of his eponymous restaurant on the terrace of the venerable Wrigley Mansion.

Christopher’s, which opened in 2021, was designed by Wendell Burnette architects, with significant input by Gross. In fact, the entire restaurant, from its meticulously executed menus to its art collection, dinnerware and table designs has been a hands-on project for the celebrated chef.

That includes the staff, who Gross said performs all the cooking in the back of the house, working the bar and serving up front. “I want them to learn everything about a restaurant,” he said, “and if they serve the food, they understand the guest’s experience.”

Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the three-course classic menu offers dishes that reflect the chef’s career. A recent menu included Westholm Wagyu filet with sauce au poivre and freekeh carrots “first seen on ‘Julia’s Kitchen with a Master Chef,’ PBS 1997.” His roasted red bell pepper soup from the same menu first appeared in Bon Appetit magazine in 1982. His “Parnassienne” chocolate mousse tower with espresso sauce and fresh berries appeared in 1982 in Chocolatier Magazine and James Beard magazine.

The menus, featuring a choice of starter, main course and dessert, are $125 per person, not including tax, tip, beverages and extras such as caviar — Altima Oscietra Imperial for $150, with blinis, crème fraiche and lemon.

Thursday through Saturday, guests feast at an eight-course tasting menu ($275 per person) that recently began with Westholme wagyu carpaccio and an “amuse bouche from the owner’s hand” — a cheesy croquette that literally is served on a blue plastic hand. Courses included a day boat scallop with Kaluga caviar and Semillon verjus and seven-day dry-aged Liberty duck served with crispy confit pearl onion, celery root and Sherry gastrique. Wine pairings that complement both menus are $230 per person.

If all this sounds too rich for an everyday dinner out, well, it is. But there’s an option, “petits plates” served on the patio. For $14 you can have a smoked Scottish salmon BLT, and for $18, Christopher’s foie gras terrine with brioche, mixed greens and Pedro Ximinez Sherry reduction, among other dishes. The experience is limited to 90 minutes, more than enough time to savor the tastes and view.

The restaurant is an experience in itself, a sleek design with full window walls. At night, it transforms into a gleaming glass disc with a flat black roof that seems to float over the diners. The roof retracts, and there’s patio seating by the cactus garden outdoors.

One writer called it a sleek glass and steel spaceship, and indeed it does look as if a vessel landed at the side of the Spanish Colonial mansion, liked the view and decided to stay.

During a recent visit, Gross pointed out some of the details, including serving dishes decorated with his whimsical drawings, wine coasters from Arcosanti, tables with dinnerware hidden in small drawers and a sunken area in the center for surprise bites of dessert to emerge, and artwork.

Especially artwork. Gross selected each piece, including a gold-leaf rendition of his Parnassienne dessert in the bathroom — a not-to-be missed experience, with a glass wall that offers what must be the most spectacular view of any bathroom in the Valley.

Just outside the bathroom is one of Gross’s works. “I paint every once in a while,” he said, “and Barbara Fenzl (a noted local cooking school operator) bought this at an auction fundraiser. She kept it 20 years, then gave it back to me.”

Gross obviously enjoys his work, teasing staff as he talks with his visitors.

“I get to do what I really like to do, and I’m lucky to do that,” he said. “I’ve been lucky the last 40 years.”

Gross, who moved to the Valley at age 12, was a latecomer to cooking. “I ate very badly as a kid,” he said. “Just plain meat, no vegetables, no sauces or condiments. I would go to McDonalds and get a plain hamburger, just meat and bread, nothing else on it.”

After a series of jobs, including janitorial work at a bakery — “not a nice bakery but one where the pies were full of preservatives and wrapped in cellophane” — he landed a janitorial job at a coffee shop in the Adams Hotel.

He liked to visit the French restaurant next door and was in the kitchen one day when the chef threw a plate full of food at a young worker who hadn’t prepared it properly. “He told the kid to get out, saw me and started screaming for me to get over and start working,” Gross said. “That’s where I discovered a passion for French cooking.” (And presumably, how to duck.) “From there I went to L.A., and London for a year as an illegal alien. I saved my money and took a one-way flight. After a year, I wrote a letter in English and a letter in French, with four letters of recommendation, and sent them to all the Michelin-starred restaurants.”

That led to jobs in Paris, Normandy, and back to L.A., then home to Phoenix. That journeyman experience is “the best thing still today for cooking,” Gross said. “They can teach part of it, but it would be like teaching someone how to lay bricks at university. You can’t do it out of a book.”

Christopher’s, located at 2501 E. Telawa Trail, is open from 5 to 10 p.m. The classics menu is served Tuesday and Wednesday; the tasting menu is served Thursday through Saturday. For information, call 602-522-2344 or visit


  • Marjorie Rice

    Marjorie Rice is an award-winning journalist, newspaper food editor, travel editor and cookbook editor with more than three decades' experience writing about the culinary industry.

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