Chris "CJ" Jacobson
Orange County-born C.J. Jacobson grew up relatively indifferent to food but his rich life experiences eventually converged to create an intense dedication to cooking. His craft is best described as "rustic-refined" and revolves around a profound respect for the hyper-seasonal, local ingredients he brings into his kitchen at Girasol in Studio City, CA, which he conceptually collaborated on with Jorge Pultera, former manager at The Ivy, Koi and Red O.
Jacobson has always been one for a good competition, even before starring on Top Chef. He attended Pepperdine University in Malibu on a volleyball scholarship, made the U.S. National Volleyball Team, and just missed an opportunity to compete in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. But a professional volleyball career took him to Belgium, Israel, and the Netherlands, where he discovered food could be exciting and inspiring. Returning to L.A. after his volleyball career, Jacobson did a three-day immersion at Mélisse, the Michelin two-star restaurant in Santa Monica where he realized the kitchen would be the next arena in which he would compete. He enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu-affiliated College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, graduating in 2004. Jacobson's first professional job was cooking at Axe, a highly regarded restaurant with an ingredient-driven California menu. He went on to work throughout Los Angeles and as a private chef for VIPs such as Arianna Huffington and Guess clothing's Marciano family.
A bout with cancer didn't slow Jacobson down but fueled his intensity for cooking and love of life. After his first appearance on Top Chef in 2007, he assumed the position of executive chef at The Yard, a gastropub in Venice. The following year, Jacobson participated in the renowned James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour. In 2012, he staged at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma.
When he's not in the kitchen, Jacobson enjoys music and has recently rediscovered his passion for the game of volleyball. But leisure time is scarce, as the dedicated 37-year-old chef is consumed by the study and preparation of food.