Gross Out

Simon and Garfunkel. Martin and Lewis. Sonny and Cher. It's not uncommon for famous, successful teams to split up.

Now it's happened again. Christopher Gross, the talented chef behind Christopher's and Christopher's Bistro, and longtime partner, Guy Coscas, have gone their separate ways.

Like most breakups, it wasn't pretty.
Blame it on irreconcilable differences. The dispute was over a woman, Gross' wife Paola, who has run the restaurants' enormous wine cellar for the past few years. According to Coscas, Paola was inept, and he balked when she demanded a promotion to general manager.

Gross sees things differently, saying Coscas didn't appreciate Paola's considerable abilities. But there's no disagreement about the outcome: Coscas fired Paola. And when she went, her husband walked out with her.

Coscas shrugs off the upheaval at the award-winning temple of gastronomy. "I used to have 86 people working for me," he says. "Now I have 85."

Isn't the number really 84? "Oh, no," he replies, "I count them as one." He doesn't have to say that he thinks Mrs. Gross' contribution was zero.

Can there be a Christopher's without Christopher? Coscas certainly thinks so. "We change presidents, why not chefs?" he reasons. And the name, whose rights he owns, will remain the same. He's interviewing "five new Christophers" for the top job now.

Don't look for any changes right away. Coscas doesn't want to blindside folks who've already made reservations during the peak season that's just begun. But after the tourists have gone, sometime in April or May, the menu will probably undergo significant renovation.

What's Christopher up to? In an interview with New Times, he seems a bit shaken. Still, he's relieved that he's finally made a clean break after so much stress. "I feel like I've gone through chemotherapy," he says, "and now it's finally over." For the moment, he's taken a job with a local catering company.

But he has plans. He's looking to open a brasserie/wine bar in the fall. He envisions reasonable prices, bustling crowds and the best wine-and-cheese program in town. What about financing? Gross reports that potential backers are lining up to invest. Given his reputation and abilities, it doesn't sound like idle boasting.

As you might expect in such an acrimonious split, the details of the breakup are being left to the attorneys. The two sides are negotiating Gross' buyout this week. A potential irony: If no agreement is reached, Gross will remain a partner in an enterprise that bears his name, but over which he has no control.

For local gastronomes, the breakup leaves a gaping void in this town's luxury, fine-dining market. No place else came near to matching Christopher's sophisticated multicourse, prix fixe dinner. Where will connoisseurs be able to find dishes like his soup of morels and foie gras, lobster cannelloni and herb-crusted daurade, and just the right wines to wash them down? Coscas insists that his Christopherless Christopher's will maintain the standard. We'll see.