Rock Star Chefs

By Alexis Tarrazi

Celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Eric Ripert and Nigella Lawson are rock stars in today’s culture. And as much as the Food Network, Iron Chef and other lifestyle staples of cable television have encouraged home cooks to be more adventurous in their own kitchens, it is men and women preparing gourmet meals in front of the camera who are the headliners. Alexis Tarrazi spoke with local chefs about their job, their avocation and their menus for this eight-part series, Rock Star Chefs. These chefs will tell you that the journey to stardom is tougher than it seems behind all the cameras and lights.

Hotel Fauchere
Milford, P.A.
MILFORD — Christopher Bates has been cooking for as long as he can remember. At the age of six, he had already decided he wanted a culinary career. However, becoming a chef was not considered a worthy profession at that time.

"Until recently there was no glory or fame," Bates, now 32 says of becoming a chef. "There was only extremely long hours and questionable pay." Back in high school, Bates recalls only the students that were not smart enough to get into a real school went off to a technical school to learn to be a mechanic or cook.

"Back then, telling your parents you wanted to be a cook — you might as well have said you want to be a stripper," Bates said.

Following His Passion

Despite the lack of glory, Bates' love for food and cooking is what fueled his passion to continue on the culinary track. Even in his teens, when most boys would go out on Friday nights, Bates chose to pour through cook books — granted living out in the country in Arkport, N.Y., Bates noted there wasn't much else for him to do.

"I grew up in Upstate New York, one hour south of Rochester," Bates said. "Basically the middle of nowhere, we had no neighbors." When Bates turned 14, he immediately got a job washing dishes at local restaurants. Eventually he went on to Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in New York to pursue a degree in hotel management and flip flopped from working in the front of the house to the back — in the kitchen.

The food movement on television has provided more acceptance for chefs. "It's great that people are comfortable with accepting cooks as professionals and not just a bunch of burn outs and drunks of the past," Bates said.

Before landing his current position, Bates put in countless hours of work. In the last seven years, Bates has worked at The Inn at Dos Brisas in Texas, which earned the coveted title of Relais & Chateaux. And now works as General Manager and Executive Chef at Hotel Fauchere in Milford, Pa. which also earned the Relais & Chateaux title.

Christopher Bates, Chef / Owner of La Fauchere in Milford, P.A.
Christopher Bates
Chef Hotel Fauchere in Milford, P.A.
"There is a false perception of how you can become a chef on television," Bates said. "You don't just go to college and get to be in this job. It takes many years." Bates has been working in restaurants for more than 17 years with a standard work day of 12 hours.

"I start at 10 a.m. and finish at 10, 11, 12 — that's normal," said Bates. And it doesn't end there. When Bates retires for the night he is still thinking up new dishes and menu items. "Food is all I think about," Bates said. "I will be texting late at night with new menu ideas."


Food is not the only thing that Bates is obsessed with — wine is also a great passion of his. Along with his titles at Hotel Fauchere, he also serves as Sommelier. Bates passed his Master Sommelier exam in 2013, which he had been working on for the past 12 years. Bates said only 199 people in the world have passed this exam and it has a 59 percent pass rate for those that take it.

Bates also holds the titles of both Certified Wine Educator and Certified Specialist of Spirits. He also owns Element Winery in the Finger Lakes, N.Y. which he travels to practically every weekend. Incorporating wine into the restaurant menu has paid off for Bates. Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s annual August Restaurant Issue, dedicated to presenting America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of the past year, has included The Delmonico Room at the Hotel Fauchère in the prestigious list.The magazine cited the Delmonico Room’s wide offering of wines by the glass (more than 20) as well as how the restaurant showcases Pennsylvania wines, including that a Pennsylvania wine comprises the base of The Delmonico Room’s housemade vermouth.

If that is not enough, Bates competes often and has recently won TopSomm 2013 and Best Young Sommelier in the World 2012 from the Chaine de Rotisseur, as well as placing third in both TopSomm 2012 and The Best Sommelier in America 2011. In 2010 Bates also won the World Cup of Wine, beating out competitors from 12 other countries around the globe, according to Bates' winery web site. On Bates' free time he writes and teaches about wine.

"He is a regular teacher for the American Sommelier Association and has also taught for the American Wine Society. He writes about wine and hospitality for the Sommelier Journal, Appellation America, (Steven Tanzer), and has wrote four chapters for the American Sommelier Associations text book," according to Bates' winery web site. Most recently, Bates was featured in the film "Somm" which aired this past weekend at the Black Bear Film Festival in Milford, Pa. The documentary follows four men — include Bates — as they work to become Master Sommeliers and explores the world of wine. Find out more about the film and watch the trailer at

Local Inspiration

Bates describes his cooking as spontaneous. "I really try to work with delicacy and balance," Bates said. "Food that makes you feel good."

His passion for seasonal and fresh foods began in his childhood growing up in the country. At nine years old Bates would sell corn from a farm stand. Bates and the Hotel work with The Anthill Farm in Honesdale where they have their own garden that is cared for by farmer Mike. Bates is able to get the freshest ingredients straight from the local area.

"We also do all of our own composting and reusing of scraps," Bates said. Everything is used and nothing goes to waste under Bates' watch. A tomato board appetizer is a perfect example as it uses chicken skin in the dish. "There is a natural flow — working with gardens and fresh ingredients," Bates said. "I try to make the world a better place through food."