Chris Santos has worked his way up the culinary ranks to become one of the most respected chefs in the business. Most people likely know him as a judge on the popular Food Network show Chopped, but don’t be surprised if you catch him at a heavy metal show one of these days.
… Or at a major rock festival, like Heavy Consequence did at Louder Than Life in Louisville, Kentucky. Santos led the catering for VIPs, media, and artists at the four-day event, serving up delicious dishes as bands like Slipknot, KISS, Nine Inch Nails, and Red Hot Chili Peppers played headlining sets.
Santos was gracious enough to stop by and chat with us about the evolution of his culinary career, his current and upcoming restaurant projects, his love for heavy metal, his record label, and what those Chopped meals really taste like.
As for his love of metal, Santos told us, “When I was about seven or eight, my older brother had KISS Alive II, so that was my gateway drug into metal.” The chef went on to say that a girl he had a crush on was a big fan of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, leading him further down the metal path.
He also credited the era he grew up in, saying, “In the mid ’80s, when I was a teen, that’s when Slayer and Metallica were coming up, but that’s also when Mötley Crüe and RATT and all those bands were coming up. And so I really enjoyed all of it, and just got sucked in. To this day I’m a huge multi-genre metal fan.”
Santos has his own record label, Blacklight Media, and credits Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel with encouraging him to sign bands. The two eventually partnered on starting the label together.
As for Chopped, Santos has been in the judging rotation for the competitive food show for 15 years, and was getting ready to film more episodes at the time we spoke with him. We were curious to know if any of the meals that the contestants cooked were basically inedible. “Sixty percent of the time, the food is good, but with some issues,” replied Santos. “Twenty percent of the time it’s unbelievably amazing. And then 20 percent of the time, It’s really bad, but we try our best to find the good in it.”
The chef also played a fun game with us, in which we named three big metal artists (Metallica, Slayer, and Ozzy Osbourne) and he told us what meal would go best with their music. Watch the video interview above to find out, and to hear more about his 40-year journey in the food business, beginning with working in a restaurant kitchen at the young age of 13.
Trouble viewing the video in the player above? Watch on YouTube.