Mark began his professional cooking career in 1972, opening the Frog & Owl Café in Highlands, North Carolina. Located in an idyllic spot on Buck Creek Road, the restaurant featured simple French food. Due as much to necessity, Mark and his wife Jerri, relied on the farms, streams, and woods close by. Fresh trout from Icenhower’s trout farm, a stone’s throw from the kitchen and three local gardens – Harper’s, Deal’s and Zahner’s, which were visited daily, were the foundation of the menu. Thus started what is now a lifetime of cooking with what is local, seasonal and on hand.
Moving to Asheville in 1979, Mark opened The Market Place restaurant, continuing with the theme of fresh, seasonal and local, as well as expanding the kitchen’s reach to an international scale. For thirty years, he was at the stove, cooking, inventing and teaching. “Graduates” of that kitchen can be found in Singapore, Chicago, Atlanta, and Portland, Oregon as well as in Asheville.
In those thirty years, he was central to the revival of local food and helped establish “Foodtopia” in Asheville – a wondrous collection of farmers, foragers, producers, and chefs. Along the way, he authored a book: “In Praise of Apples”.
Selling the restaurant to William Dissen in 2009, he took his skills and connections and along with Michel Baudouin, Steve Frabitore and Asheville Independent Restaurants, established the Kitchen Ready training program – a kitchen-based skills training program for individuals suffering in poverty.