Christian Iser was born and raised in Cognac, France. His family considered him the black sheep of the family because of his insistence on training as a chef. He left for Paris at an early age to attend cooking school, then apprenticed three years in the French Navy. He then worked his way up the culinary ladder aboard several luxury liners sailing between Europe and the United States. He was able to take a position as chef at a small East Coast restaurant, traveling the U.S. whenever possible. In 1974, he moved to San Francisco and worked several jobs in hotels over the next four years.
In 1978, he arrived at the Stanford Court Hotel, to open what was then known as Fournou’s Ovens. In 1982, the Great Chefs television team was producing their second series for PBS called Great Chefs of San Francisco, and arrived in the kitchens of the Stanford Court to tape Chef Iser and Pastry Chef Jim Dodge.