“I can relate everything in (my) life to sailing. Crossing open oceans for a month at a time without seeing land, it’s about perseverance. If it doesn’t work, you go right back at it and make it work. When you’re out on the ocean, you can’t just pull over and say ‘I give up!’ If something breaks, you fix it and do whatever you can to make it work.”
Those are the words of Christopher Krajacic, co-founder, president and general manager of Pier 76 Fish Grill. While Chris can reflect on his sources of inspiration as a Chef and restaurateur, he also taps his vast life experiences to shape how he envisions, creates and prepares food.
Chris found cooking influences early in life, from his Italian mother who cooked daily for a large family to his Croatian grandmother, who was a master baker. Of the many moments that brought him to the present, he can also fondly look back at his first cooking job at an upscale retirement home he took simply because a friend was working there.
“All because making instant mashed potatoes, I wanted to make real mashed potatoes,” jokes Chris.
That led Chris to the culinary program at Orange Coast College, and soon thereafter his love of the ocean and seafood prompted a move to Hawaii, a specifically-planned move so he could learn about a culinary style inspired by the sea. After working his way up over the next several years to his first Executive Chef position, Chris, an admitted risk-taker and entrepreneur at heart, dropped it all.
He invested everything he had in crossing the Pacific Ocean with his brother, Andrew Krajacic, on the sailing vessel Krackerjack I. The two had never sailed before in their lives. The trip started in Santa Barbara, California and ended in Australia. Chris went on to sail across the Pacific Ocean two more times with the Krackerjack II and then finally with the Krackerjack III. He credits those experiences as major influences in his culinary career.
“I have always been a man of the sea, I have taken numerous trips across the Pacific. I have lived on the ocean, and lived in Hawaii. That was a big influence, as far as seafood is concerned.” explains Chris.
In fact, it was an improbable electrical fire on board the Krackerjack III that helped Pier 76 Fish Grill come to fruition. While anchored several hundred yards off the coast of Tahiti, the 40-foot catamaran unexpectedly caught fire while Chris was surfing nearby. It was a total loss. Left with nothing except a pair of board shorts and a donated t-shirt, Chris made his way back to the states and eventually partnered with his old High School friend, Michael Santos, to set sail once again and open the first Pier 76 Fish Grill.
As you may have guessed, there is much more to Chris. He is an avid surfer and cyclist. He has completed marathons, ultra-marathons and Ironman Triathalons. He has navigated around the world on a motorcycle. He also enjoys golfing, swimming and camping.
Those life experiences all tie together. It was a love of surfing that proved to be the catalyst for sailing, and Chris' passion for sailing that provided the genesis for Pier 76 Fish Grill.
“I love my profession and what I'm doing with my life,” explains Chris. “I'm fortunate that way.”