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Chris Russo

Wine Director & Sommelier

Following high school graduation and many years of mid-west winters, he ended up in California to study Biology, graduating with a Bachelor's of Science degree from UC Santa Barbara.

While attending UCSB, Chris worked as a painter for Burnham Wood Golf Club in Montecito, CA. On one occasion the banquet staff was shorthanded and asked him to fill in- tuxedo, white gloves, silver trays and all- thus beginning his food and beverage experience. It was during this time that he served a culinary great, Julia Child, who was a member of the club. He vividly recalls her ordering soda water with five ice cubes and three dashes of bitters. Not knowing who she was at the time, he quickly poured some soda water over ice and added some bitters to the glass. Upon serving the drink, Ms. Child politely admonished Chris and asked him to bring her exactly what she had ordered. Once he became aware of who she was he found himself embarrassed and learning a lesson in the art of listening and attention to detail, skills that he has since perfected.

After receiving his degree, Chris ventured south to San Diego to pursue his interests in the bio-tech field where he worked at Roppongi, an upscale Asian fusion restaurant in La Jolla at the time. He made a decision to leave San Diego after a few years to further his education by obtaining a Master's degree in Biotechnology from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Upon completion of his degree, he returned to San Diego to further pursue employment in the bio-tech industry and to enjoy the weather and beaches. During his employment search, Chris applied for a position with NINE-TEN as an interim job until he landed the job of his dreams in the bio-tech industry.

Chris joined the NINE-TEN Restaurant team as a Server in 2007 after noting on his application that he was a "waiter extraordinaire". In his more than a decade with NINE-TEN, he has been able to couple his love of food and wine with the satisfaction of creating memories and experiences for guests. As a matter of fact, he continued to work at NINE-TEN when he found himself working in the bio-tech industry, for GenWay and Illumina, respectively. Chris's enthusiasm for service and personal contact made him realize that, although he had enjoyed his studies, bio-tech was not his calling. He decided to commit himself to working full-time at NINE-TEN and pursuing certification as a Sommelier. He received the top score on his Introductory Sommelier exam in a class of over 100 people and became a Certified Sommelier only six months later.

Following his Certified Sommelier designation, Chris began working as Wine Director at NINE-TEN where he acts as a mentor by sharing his knowledge of food and wine to co-workers and guests alike. He remains an integral part of the NINE-TEN team, recognized frequently by guests for his outstanding service, knowledge and wine recommendations. He has been awarded San Diego's "Sommelier of the Year" by the readers of Ranch & Coast Magazine in 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, as well as San Diego's "Best Restaurant Server" by the readers of the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2021. His knowledge has also garnered the restaurant numerous awards for having the best wine list in San Diego.

Outside of work, Chris loves to travel, particularly internationally, in an effort to further his depth and breadth of food and beverage knowledge through a variety of culinary experiences. Upon return from his adventures, he is thrilled to share his experiences and knowledge in order to help benefit others. He contributes to park and beach clean-ups in his local community of Point Loma and Ocean Beach. He also enjoys the company of his beloved dog, Murphy, whom he has been working to train as a therapy dog with "Love on a Leash", an organization that takes animals into convalescent homes to briefly better the lives of those individuals living there. It can easily be said that Chris leaves a lasting impression on anyone he encounters and those who have had the opportunity of knowing him are better for it.