Local chef, family man and baseball lover
Beginning as a child, Joe Thompson’s drive in life has been to see people happy. Since this restaurant owning chef believes most people are delighted around food, he’s able to bring joy to others on a daily basis.
“They get excited when they see it and smile when they eat it!” claims Chef Joe, especially when he’s the one cooking it.
For 26 years, Joe’s also brought joy to his wife, Alison Dellar Thompson, with his cuisine. (Coincidentally, the young couple’s fate may have been decided over a chance dinner in Corona del Mar, California).
As Joe shares, “We decided to meet for appetizers at a bar with people from work. To our surprise, no one else showed up. My Dad was visiting from Sacramento, so I asked him to join us. Well, it was a little awkward when he showed up and it was just Alison and me.” He continues, “(Dad) was going to take me out to dinner, so we invited Alison to go with us. We went to the Five Crowns Restaurant. After we were seated, Alison excused herself (for) the ladies room, and I told my dad, ‘This is the one.’”
His dad laughed, probably because Joe was only 20 at the time and never really had a serious relationship. But Joe got the last laugh, because three years later he found himself asking Alison’s father for her hand in marriage. Somehow Joe figured out how to convince Alison to say “yes,” and the two went on to become the proud parents of Joey (22) and Autumn (19).
So how does this busy dad balance family with work, especially when he’s running the Gold Rush Grille restaurant in the Secretary of State Building in Sacramento, and the very popular CRISP Catering business? Sacrifice. But balanced sacrifice.
“Unfortunately, in my business I don’t get a ton of time off, so I have to make what time I do have work to my advantage,” remarks Joe. He has learned over the years since they opened the restaurant in April of 2004, “To have a long career in this industry, you need a family that understands your desire to get the job done, as well as be with them. In the past, I have missed holidays, games, and other important events, but try to make the most of the times I get to be there.”
Over his many years in the restaurant business, the “Grille” allows him to see many regulars daily. “It allows us to build long term friendships.” Then there’s the catering business. “What is really unique about CRISP Catering, is that every week there are new parties and events that we get to provide food and service for.” A highly sought-after local chef, Joe is often seen on Sacramento’s news channels, like KCRA 3 and Fox 40, demonstrating his latest tips and tricks, and is a regular contributor to Northern California’s DayTripper Magazine.
The popularity of his cuisine doesn’t end there though. Joe humbly confides, “(While) we have served the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Condoleezza Rice, Danny Glover, the Vienna Boys Choir, and Steve Young, just to name a few,” you don’t have to be rich or famous to enjoy his food.
With the businesses nestled in downtown Sacramento, Joe gets to view his favorite part of Sacramento everyday. He shares, “One of the main reasons I love this area is the trees. They make you feel like you are not in a big town at all. The distance to other ‘attractions’ is also a big draw for me. Napa, San Francisco, Tahoe, Reno, Yosemite, are all fairly close. I tell people I could (not that he ever would), start the day at the beach in San Francisco and finish with a little night skiing at Boreal. Pretty Cool!” (Also, his family is here in the Sacramento-area and he enjoys spending every second he can with them.)
When he does have spare time, Joe’s bucket list has baseball all over it. He reveals, “It includes going to all 30 professional baseball ballparks with my wife. So far we have been able to visit 10 of the parks and look forward to getting to a few (or more) every year.”
Whether this chef is watching balls being hit out of the park, or he’s knocking them out himself, with his culinary home runs, one thing’s for sure, Chef Joe Thompson is all heart when it comes to his family, his patrons and especially his food.