Humans of Lexington | Chris Ross

We caught up with the extremely busy Chris Ross, Executive Chef over the Central Bank Center and the Kentucky Horse Park to ask him about his passion, his family and what he ate last.

Chris Ross Executive Chef Central Bank Center and Kentucky Horse Park with wife, Asia

Tell me about your family.
I have an amazing wife (Asia) who has been super supportive of my career and culinary obsession. I have 3 kids, Brady 19, Eli 17 and Brook 15. They were all literally raised in the kitchen. I am proud of them all and look forward to see where their futures take them. Last but not least, my great dane preacher.

Tell me about your positions at Rupp and the KY Horse Park.
I am the Executive Chef over the Central Bank Center which house Rupp Arena (a dream job for a lifelong Kentucky boy to be the first Executive Chef of historic Rupp), the convention center and the Lexington Opera House. I am also the Executive Chef over the Kentucky Horse Park which has a ton of catering and a seasonal restaurant called the Iron Works Café. These jobs combined makes for a pretty busy life but the main seasons seem to offset each other. I manage both locations like it is one team, and I have an amazing team. A big shout out to Nate (my right hand), Ashley, Joe, Darrell, Mike, Kisha, and Julian.

Do you have a morning ritual, if so what does it look like?
My current morning ritual is an hour and a half commute to Lexington from Louisville, Goshen actually in Oldham County. I drink about 2 cups of coffee and 2 bottles of water on my drive. I either listen to the news or food related podcasts on my way in to make sure I stay current with everything in the real world and the food world. On large event days I listen to WWE wrestling theme music or the Rocky IV soundtrack to get me pumped up!

What do you love most about the local restaurant industry?
I love the comradery, which has been evident during Covid-19…how everyone is helping everyone out.  

How would you describe Lexington’s food scene?
Up and coming. I don’t think it is quite there yet with Louisville but it is very good. I love how so many of the places are focusing on southern food with their spin on it. Top Chef coming to Kentucky last year really put the spotlight on Kentucky as a food state.

Favorite dish from your childhood?
My Pawpaw’s burgers and my Granny’s fried potatoes, if I close my eyes I can still smell it. Which this memory is tied into my favorite thing to cook at home.

Favorite dish on the menu, when cooking at home?
Braised beef, preferably short ribs. The smell when you sear the beef in a hot pan, instantly takes me back to my grandparents kitchen. I love braising things, it takes time and there is no rush. The flavor builds and gets intense as you cook it slow and long.

Chris Ross Executive Chef Lexington Kentucky

How do you stay inspired?
I am a very competitive person. I keep the mantra you are only as good as your last meal and the drive to improve keeps me going. I am pretty sure I hate losing more than I like winning. I think that keeps me motived to always try to be better, to learn something new every day that can improve yourself, help your team and help your company.

If you could cook for anyone who would it be and what would you make? My Granny. She passed away before I ever knew that I wanted to be a chef. I would make her short ribs and grits, but I would tell her it is pot roast, because I am sure she would have no idea what a short rib is.

What is your favorite local ingredient to cook with?
I would have to say Wiesenberger Mills Grits

What made you fall in love with food?
I’ve always loved to eat but as a profession, I kind of just fell into it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up and I was working as server while going to college for a business degree. I met a mentor of mine and just fell in love with the kitchen.  I drove this guy crazy until he strongly suggested that I go to culinary school and her I am 20 years later…

What set’s you apart from other chefs?
Work ethic, integrity, drive to be the best and adaptation. I’ve always felt like I may not be the smartest guy in the room but I could damn sure out work anyone. Hard work with drive trumps intelligence any day of the week. Integrity, doing what you are saying you will do, follow through, and being honest…not saying other people aren’t, it’s just that I pride myself and my team on it. I would rather hire a cook who didn’t know anything about cooking, I can teach cooking, I can’t teach someone to be honest or to be a good person. Adaptation, being able to work in tough circumstances/situations and succeed when up against not favorable odds. I’ve made a career out of not having the proper tools to do my job.

What’s the last thing you ate?
18 hour sous vide Saint Louis Ribs. Brine them for 48 hours. Then slow cook them for 18 hours, rub them down and then crisp them up on the grill.

When you aren’t in the kitchen, what do you like to do?
To be completely honest I am obsessed with being a chef and food and all things culinary is mostly what I think about. I enjoy spending time with my bride, she’s my best friend and sous chef for life…we do about everything together. I like eating out for R&D. Jogging, walking and basketball…I like being outdoors.

When you’re not working are you cooking or grabbing carryout?
I love cooking and I love to eat. It’s about 50/50 for me. At home my wife (who is an amazing cook) cooks about 50% of the meals we eat, then I cook about 25% and eat out 25%.