Chris Coogan | Chop, Dice, Mince, Kick-Flip | Balancing Skate Life & Chef Life
Chris Coogan is a person with dual passion. His love for both skateboarding and cooking growing up took him from Pensacola, Florida to San Diego, California when he was just 20 years old. After spending the better part of his first year on an extended vacation in San Diego, Chris headed back into the kitchen to chase his other passion. Now he divides his times between the breakfast and fine dining shifts and capturing tricks on video on his skateboard in the streets. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. For Chris, there are parallels in his two pursuits and they definitely feed off of each other and provide balance in his life. And the lessons that he learns in the kitchen are ones that he can apply to his life on his skateboard and share with that community as well.
Where are you from and how did you get into skateboarding? I’m from Northwest Florida, Pensacola. I was born and raised there. I grew up with two older brothers. My stepdad got me into skating when I was about 11. It was just banana boards, super old school. I started skating in sandals! Those were super fun times. I had a bunch of neighborhood friends that I started skating with. It took off from there. I started skating every day. My mom would take me to skateparks. My middle brother skated too.
My oldest brother never skated. But he went to culinary school. His first job was in a restaurant. He was a busser. Then he moved down the line and started going to culinary school. He actually got my first job when I was 16 as a busser as well. Working at the restaurant got me super hyped. I was bussing tables with him and skating everyday.
My brother was working the fry station. I was on the other side of the line. He would feed me little treats from the fry station—just pass them over the line. That just fed the fire—seeing him working with hot food everyday. He would also tell me about different stuff that he was learning in culinary school.
Eventually that motivated me. I started working on the hot side of the line and moved up. Then my brother got a new job. He was working at a few different places. He started doing a little bit of banquet stuff. And then eventually, I started getting to the same level as him. He was teaching me everything that he knew. It was pretty rad working with my oldest brother on the line for a good year to year and a half. It taught me a lot.
So you got your start with both skateboarding and cooking out in Florida. How did you make your way out to California? I was working 60-hour weeks in the restaurant for a good year and a half. Then one summer I got busted with some weed and an open container. I got super bummed because I was on probation for like three months. I felt like I really needed to get out of Florida. I wanted to move out to California forever. Ever since I was 16 and at my peak skating. I started doing online school because I went on a tour. I had A’s and B’s all through grade school. I quite doing online school because I was working full-time and skating full-time. Then I got in trouble and that just made me move out. I got a tax return, sold my car, and had three paychecks and bought a one-way ticket. I had some homies out here in San Diego. They let me crash on the couch. So I was on a staycation for a good 8 months. I would skate every day for as long as my body permitted me. That was the first eight months in SD. I was 20 years old.
Sounds like you were on a solid skate mission when you got out to San Diego. How did working in kitchens again come into play? I knew I wanted to take a little breather when I got out there and skate for as long as I could. I had a nice chunk of money saved up from job before then. I told myself that I was going to stretch it for as long as I can and just skate. I went back into the kitchen pretty much as soon as I was almost out of money. I got pretty nervous. I was broke. Then I found a super sick job. I’m still at the same spot, the Paradise Point Resort. I’ve been floating around there working at all the different outlets. There’s like seven outlets there. I’ll work from five in the morning through the dinner shift. But Ultimately when I got hired there, I got hired to work the hot side in the morning shift at 5:00 AM every day. So I’m able to work until like two or three o’clock and go skate for the rest of the daylight. I’ll go filming every day as well.
How’d you find your job at Paradise Point? I was applying online. I didn’t really have too many homies out here. I had like three friends that were skaters. They had no idea about the cooking scene. I was still fresh too. I didn’t know much about culinary out here. I did an interview with the chef at Paradise Point. His name was Donald Coffman. Right away he asked me, “Why did you move out here to California?” I told him it was the opportunity to skate as much as I can, get another cooking job, do both.” Just maximize days—make money, go skate, cook, learn more shit. He told me that was epic. He grew up skating with Sean Sheffey. Right away, I could tell he knew his SD history. He was hyped on me immediately and hired me. I started working with him for a good year and learned a lot. He’s an awesome chef.
You’re cooking full-time and just filmed a new video part skating. How do you balance the two? Right now, I’m just trying to get the buttery schedule. I work the 5:00 AM shift as much as I can. I was working fine dining shifts from 2:00 to 10:30. So I would treat it like vice versa. If I worked at five in the morning, I would make sure I would go film everyday as soon as I got off work. Then when the hours change, it’s the same thing. Get up at 9:00 and try to go skate—go warm up at a park, hit a spot or two, whatever I could get in before I had to go to work at two. Just try to make the most out of each day.
Skating and cooking are both creative pursuits. Do they feed off of one another for you, or do you look at them as separate things? I believe they definitely feed off each other. It’s a lifestyle. The creativity, the nutrition, you gotta eat well. I love learning how to cook better—better for anyone else, people, guests, myself. It’s about diet. For the daily grind, you gotta have energy. Cooking keeps me in that center of balance, just like skating. You can’t skate two days a week and be in the zone. Just like you can’t cook two days a week and pick up right where you left off. Every day, I treat it like it’s another day to better myself and learn new techniques—accumulate knife skills, learn how to do a new recipe or better recipe. It’s the same with tricks. It’s hand-in-hand. You gotta put in the trial and error to learn something. It’s the same with cooking. You might fuck something up, a batch. You might have to toss it. It’s the same with a trick. You might film something then have to go back and get it with a little more energy or figure out how to do it better. And it’s just the individuality of it. The dedication too, you gotta be dedicated. You can’t complain about working in the kitchen all of the time. I never get tired. I love it. It’s the same with skating. I’m used to slamming, breaking bones. I just love being in the kitchen. The hot, the fire, the flame, the burns, the tickets coming in—it’s just like skating, that expression. You can go skate, haul ass, and do fun tricks. It’s the same as cooking as well. You can get that hype from making good food of a good quality in a timely manner.
How did you link up with True Cooks? I hit Chad up on Instagram. I was just telling him that I back TC and the idea behind the company. I follow all of the hashtags and everything. And I had heard of it too. I heard about it from a bunch of people everywhere. And the idea of it is so rad to me. It’s a company that people are so dedicated to in the culinary world. Hearing from Chad right away about his story—that skateboarding actually brought him out here to California back in the day and that cooking just like skating – was an outlet for him to grow and travel and meet all of these different people. Skateboarding will bring you places. You experience so many cultures, ideas, and people. The whole idea of that—the dedication, the network, the family, and friends—the idea of the company is so sick to me. It’s like nothing I’ve ever come across before. Totally original.
You are clearly still immersed in skating and still immersed in cooking. Where do you see yourself going in the future? I see myself in other new positions. I want to work for more chefs. I want to film more skate parts. I want to do a lot more traveling. I want a switch of jobs as well. I’ve had the same job for a few years now. I’m ready for a new opportunity and a new location. I just want to keep the drive going, determination.
Do you think that being a skater who’s cooking has any impact on your career path? I definitely know that I want to continue cooking and learning as much as I can. I can’t imagine any other career path. That’s how I relate it with skating. There’s nothing else that I want to be doing. I get so much enjoyment from cooking all day and then going out and skating in the streets. It goes hand-in-hand.
Being someone with dual passion that’s chasing them both, what advice would you give to kids out there that are into cooking and skating or cooking and something else on how they should approach their career path? I’ve learned a lot in that last few years on nutrition. It plays such a role in your day-to-day life. That drives me a lot too. Eating well, you have to eat well for your body. If you want to be a skateboarder for as long as you can, then you have to take care of yourself. You can’t just eat random shit. The same with your living situation, you have to budget yourself. You can’t eat out all the time. You can’t eat shit food. If you get injured, you’re not going to be feeding your body what you need. For younger kids, knowing about nutrition is a great way to direct your lifestyle, eating habits, overall mindset, and happiness. It plays a huge role in where you stand mentally.