Mark Sullivan’s harmonious connection to his craft is evident in his role as executive chef of two Michelin-starred restaurants, Spruce in San Francisco and The Village Pub in Woodside; Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto: and Pizza Antica (four locations). 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 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.
“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 Mark. “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, “it 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 small plates tapas trend in the Bay Area.
Sullivan then left for Europe, cooking his way through Southern France and Northern Spain. He returned to San Francisco to join Slow Club, where the daily rotating menu was both challenge and opportunity. Slow Club owner Jim Moffat watched as Sullivan thrived in the focused and innovative environment, and offered him the position of 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.
Sullivan later joined PlumpJack Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe as chef de cuisine, where he met Tim Stannard. The pair went on to open The Village Pub, which quickly garnered a discerning clientele and culinary acclaim from both local and national publications.
Being at the helm of Bacchus’ kitchens 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. Mark’s vision to grow his own produce was realized through Bacchus’ partnership with SMIP Ranch, a five-acre organic farm in the serene hills of Woodside. Sullivan’s daily collaboration with the resident farmers results in custom-grown ingredients that represent a vision from farm to plate.
Sullivan continues to seek out new techniques and skills. Through his travels both domestically and abroad, Sullivan emphasizes learning a cuisine at its source, transforming the experience into his identity and his cooking.