Christopher Ponte (pronounced “Pont”), began his culinary career at Clearwater’s Pepper Mill Restaurant in 1991 after graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Most chefs will tell you that catering to special requests from patrons can mean a great deal of additional work, especially in a busy kitchen. After many months of such service to one particular customer, the guest asked to meet the chef, thanked him and they began to talk. “What would the young man like to do in the future?” he asked.
Ponte answered, “Study in France .”
The patron, a Long Island, N.Y. retiree, who had no local family, gave the chef money as if he was his son. Shortly after that introduction, Ponte was studying the culinary arts in Paris at the Cordon Bleu, France ‘s iconic culinary institute. Ponte achieved his degree at the top of his class and, upon graduation, was hired as an apprentice at the famed Taillevent, also in Paris.
With over six years of experience in arguably the most prestigious culinary settings in the world, Ponte took his expertise into the private sector when he accepted a job as personal executive chef for New York entrepreneur Leon Black. Ponte coordinated daily meals for Black’s three New York homes as well as catered corporate events and private dinner parties. On the weekends, Ponte would take unpaid apprenticeships with some of New York ‘s most critically acclaimed restaurants including that of Daniel Boulud.
With much experience and training behind him, Ponte began investigating opportunities to create his own culinary legacy. When he began looking for a geographical locale to open his first restaurant, his fondness for Florida and his West Coast connections led him to the Tampa Bay area where he opened Café Ponte in 2002.
Ponte has brought with him exceptional dishes ranging from Asian to Italian with lessons from classic European cuisine, all with spectacular presentation and great taste.
Ponte’s 250-seat restaurant continues to create a stir with food critics and within the Bay area.