Foodie Chap: Chef Mark Sullivan Of Spruce
KCBS Foodie Chap Podcast:
Mark Sullivan’s harmonious connection to his craft is evident in his role as Executive Chef and Partner of all of Bacchus Management Group’s restaurants (Michelin-starred Spruce in San Francisco, Michelin-starred The Village Pub in Woodside, Cafe des Amis in San Francisco, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto, Pizza Antica (Lafayette, Mill Valley, Santa Monica, Santana Row). With no formal culinary education, Sullivan has always relied on his intuition and innate pleasure for cooking when creating his soulful food with clean, bright flavors.
Sullivan’s intellectual approach to being a Chef involves a deep respect for his ingredients and challenging the methods in an ongoing exploration of old world and modern cooking. His elegant yet approachable food has made his restaurants both a local’s favorite and a destination restaurant for out of towners. It’s also what landed him on the cover of Food & Wine magazine as one of ‘America’s Best New Chefs’ of 2002 and also led to his recognition as Chef at Spruce in Esquire magazine’s 2008 ‘Best New Restaurants’ issue.
Sullivan graduated from St. Johns University in Minnesota in 1990 with a degree in Philosophy. Recognizing that debating the merits of Nietzche didn’t pay the bills, he returned to the kitchen, this time at Sol Y Luna in San Francisco, a restaurant that virtually pioneered the tapas trend in the Bay Area.
“Being a Chef is about the connection
of the mind to the hands.”
- Mark Sullivan, Executive Chef
Looking to further develop his culinary talents, Sullivan left Sol Y Luna for Europe, cooking his way through Southern France and Northern Spain, acquiring an arsenal of authentic techniques. Inspired by his culinary adventures, Sullivan returned to San Francisco to join Slow Club, then 42 Degrees and PlumpJack Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe.
Tim Stannard recruited Mark and the two opened The Village Pub, which quickly garnered a discerning clientele and culinary acclaim winning him and his teams Michelin stars at Spruce and Village Pub. He crafts nearly everything that comes out of the kitchen by hand including a vast array of charcuterie. Sullivan’s vision to grow his own produce was brought to fruition through Spruce’s partnership with SMIP Ranch, a five acre organic farm in the serene hills of Woodside, California. Sullivan’s daily collaboration with the resident farmer results in a menu that represents a vision from farm to plate, producing food that is never fussy or overwrought.
Sullivan lives in San Francisco with his wife Alison and two young sons. In his free time he can be found exploring the California coast, surfboard in tow.
His heart is as large as the waves he surfs and they are BIG WAVES!! Just recently I joined Chef as EmCee for a fundraiser for a No Kid Hungry Share Our Strength dinner. The sell out event at Spruce raised more than $60,000 to help end child hunger in America. Mark’s chef pals (Anthony Strong, Amanda Freitag, Belinda Leong, Craig Stoll and Jason Berthold) came together on their own time and dime to cook 100 dinners. It was by all accounts a very special dinner for a most important cause.
Chef Mark and I also connected at SPRUCE for our Foodie Chap chat. Mark is as chilled a Chef as you will ever find. His kitchen runs HOT but this dude is at all times one very COOL cat.
Enjoy the conversation, Liam.
5 Tasty Questions: Chef Mark Sullivan
1. Chef, cooking to you is about…?
It’s about the connection of the mind to the hands. The idea that you can think of something in your mind, and then build it and actually eat has always been really fascinating to me.
2. What dish reminds you of home?
Gosh, pot roast. I grew up having pot roast and I, to this day I want to like, I’d like to do a pot roast type restaurant where you cook everything in these pots over a hearth, over like wood fire and everything simmers together: potatoes, and carrots, and beef. And that’s always gonna be a memory of mine growing up with my mom making pot roast for us.
3. Second life, you’ve gone back as something other than a chef, what would you be?
Well. I’d like to say a porn star, but I can’t. I’m just kidding. You know, anything with my hands. I like to be creative. Often times I tell myself, you know, if I weren’t cooking, you know, I would like to make cool things out of furniture. I would like to make jewelry like using my hands, using my brain. So I would say something with my hands probably some kind of craft whether it be woodworking or jewelry or something, you’re actually making some pottery, all those things would be satisfying.
4. In your personal soundtrack. If you had to pick one song by one artist right now what would it be?
Right now the most amazing song that I just got wind of and I just started listening to is David Bowie’s “Where Are We Now” and I grew up being a huge Bowie fan and his music is timeless and this song, you know a lot of old folks, well as they get older a lot of artists sometimes fade and this song is as good as anything he’s ever done and the way that his music’s changed over time is very intriguing and in each phase it’s still wonderful, so if you havent listened to this song, David Bowie “Where Are We Now,” you should download it from iTunes.
5. Last supper, chef. You can have a couple of guests, dead or alive, famous or not, who would they be and what will you eat, what would be on the table?
I would have a few Greek philosophers, probably Plato, maybe Socrates, I’d bring them back, find out some stories, could be a long dinner. But I definitely would have my wife, she makes the most amazing chicken. Roasted chicken with some truffles, maybe a little black truffle into it, pop open some very special wine, have my boys at the table, and just have like a philosopher’s dinner with Socrates and Plato and maybe Aristotle as well.
CITRUS AND BRASSICA SALAD, OIL-CURED BLACK OLIVES, PISTACHIO, BUTTERMILK DRESSING
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 citrus fruits, segmented (can include cara-cara, blood oranges and/or Meyer lemons)
3 cups mixed brassicas (can include cauliflower, romanesco and/or broccoli)
4 baby turnips
1 cup mixed greens (mustard or kale leaves)
1 cup buttermilk dressing (recipe below)
1/2 cup pistachios
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Banyuls vinegar
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup yogurt or creme fraiche
2/3 cup buttermilk
Zest of 1 lemon
Hydrate black olives in 2 cups of cold water for 15 minutes. When ready, strain and toss in extra-virgin olive oil. Set aside.
In a small bowl, segment your citrus fruits into small pieces. Set aside.
Using a Japanese mandolin, slice brassica and baby turnips into very thin shavings. In a medium bowl, toss shavings and mixed greens with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste.
Evenly distribute the brassica, baby turnips and mixed greens onto four plates. Place 2-3 olives and several citrus segments on top, along with a drizzle of buttermilk dressing. Sprinkle pistachios over the top, and finish with extra-virgin olive oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and Banyuls vinegar. While mixing, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil, creating an emulsion. Whisk in the yogurt and buttermilk.
Add lemon zest, season with salt and white pepper, to taste.
NO KID HUNGRY
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