Mark Sullivan’s connection to his craft is evident in his role as Chef/Partner of Spruce in San Francisco, Spruce Park City in Park City, Utah, and The Village Pub in Woodside. 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 approach to being a chef involves a deep respect for his ingredients and challenging 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 most recently led to his recognition as chef at Spruce in Esquire magazine’s 2008 “Best New Restaurants” issue. In addition, The Village Pub received its first Michelin star in 2009 and has retained it ever since, and Spruce was awarded its first star in 2011.
“The connection between a creative thought in my mind and the ability to develop the concept into a finished product using my hands has always attracted me,” says Sullivan. “Cooking became a natural extension of this passion, igniting my career.” Growing up in a food-focused household, where formal, white tablecloth dinners were a bi-weekly event, Sullivan learned early on that a meal was an experience with a soul, bringing people together to share their lives. He began his career at the age of 16 working his way through several restaurants, developing skills for a career that he claims, “chose me as much as I chose it.”
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.
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, where the daily rotating menu provided the greatest creative challenge he had yet faced. Slow Club owner Jim Moffat watched as Sullivan thrived in the focused and innovative environment, and offered him the opportunity to be chef after 6 months of working together. Moffat later invited Sullivan to be the opening chef for a new venture, 42 Degrees. During his tenure there, San Francisco Magazine awarded the restaurant “Best Bay Area Mediterranean Restaurant” and Sullivan received a glowing review in Gourmet Magazine.
Following these successes, Sullivan joined PlumpJack Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe as Chef de Cuisine, helping to put the restaurant on the culinary map. Shortly after leaving PlumpJack for a long-overdue sabbatical, Tim Stannard recruited Mark and the two opened The Village Pub, which quickly garnered a discerning clientele and culinary acclaim from both local and national publications.
Being at the helm of any kitchen has allowed Sullivan’s natural talents and years of dedication to flourish. 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 5-acre organic farm in the serene hills of Woodside, California. Sullivan’s daily collaboration with the resident farmer results in a menu of contemporary American cuisine that represents a vision from farm to plate, producing food that is never fussy or overwrought.
Sullivan continues to seek out new techniques and skills to improve his craft. Through his travels both domestically and abroad, Sullivan emphasizes learning a cuisine at its source, transforming the experience into his identity and his cooking.