Christopher Becker

CHRISTOPHER BECKER, 27 Executive chef, The Wine Market | Mount Washington This time of year, Christopher Becker's favorite food to make is gnocchi and dumplings. He says he can't wait for spring, when he'll experiment with chicken liver-stuffed smoked morels. "I just love to cook," he explains. "Always have." Becker's being modest. He presides over a staff of a dozen at the highly regarded Wine Market in Locust Point, where he quickly moved up the ranks to executive chef in just a few years. Not bad for a guy who started in the business washing dishes at 14. It started with his mother, Donna, who raised Becker in Ellicott City and his siblings as a single mom. "My mother was always a really big do-it-yourself lady," Becker says. "She made her own yogurt, ricotta and bread. She turned me onto food." Though he misses the rush of being a line cook, he revels at the chance to change things up at The Wine Market (the next food he wants to take on: smoked eel). And he still finds time to talk to his mom about food -- and get encouragement. "There's nights when I come home and it's just wearing me down and I complain about something," he said. "She's a tough lady, Baltimore born and raised. She'll just say, 'Shut up. You'll be all right.'" JORDAN BARTEL, B
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