ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Chef Mark Dommen and the “Beastly” Season at One Market

Taking a stroll along the Embarcadero might seem unappealing now that SF has entered into the foggy days of our atypical summer weather. However, there is one bright, sunny spot next to the bay in the form of One Market Restaurant.

A San Francisco staple for more than 17 years, One Market has been championing farm-to-table freshness with unparalleled innovation and sophistication. For Chef Mark Dommen, this approach to food is second nature for the Sonoma native, with classic French touches and east coast experience added for good measure.

A Michelin Star honoree for the third year in a row, One Market seeks to mix it up this summer season with “The Weekly Beast,” a weekly prix fixe menu that showcases a different farm-raised animal from head to toe, er, hoof. Looks like these gray days just got a little more interesting!

Chef Dommen chats with Haute Living about his San Francisco experience:

Haute Living: What brought you to the Bay Area?

Mark Dommen: I was born here, so it’s a natural fit for me.  I grew up in Sonoma County, moved away for awhile and have not found any where I’d rather live.

HL: What directly influences your cuisine and style of cooking?

MD: Ingredients and the personal desire to make delicious tasting food.  I like to incorporate different techniques and try to combine ingredients in interesting ways.

HL: You landed in Napa Valley as Executive Chef of Julia’s Kitchen. How would you characterize the Napa food scene?

MD: It’s like a complicated web with all these relationships that stem from the pleasure of eating and drinking. You have all types of world-renowned restaurants with fabulous wine lists all in a country setting.  Wineries are making remarkable wines and either pairing it with food or promoting restaurants that serve wonderful food. Napa is truly legendary.

HL: Napa is also the place you call home. What really sets the area apart from the rest of Northern California? Any quintessential wineries on your list?

MD: It’s very unique in many ways. First, it is absolutely beautiful – a country setting with a city feel as far as culture.  The proximity to San Francisco, along with its geography and climate makes it this great place to live. If I had to pick a couple [wineries] they would be Joseph Phelps for its wines and physical setting and Round Pond, again for their wines and [their] amazing gardens both for vegetables and flowers.

HL: You have friends visiting from out of town and you’re playing tour guide. What are the top attractions of San Francisco?

MD: I like to make a big loop in San Francisco [on] a clear day. I like start out at Ocean Beach, just because I love the water.   Next stop is the top of Twin Peaks, this gives a great view of the entire city and you can point every out to your guests.  Stop for lunch at Swans Oyster Depot.  Take a ride on the cable cars and walk through China Town.  Finish at the Ferry building either nibbling through the different place with a glass of wine from the wine merchant or dinner at the Slanted Door.

HL: Your additional interests include activities such as golf and skiing. Are there any courses or slopes in the area that you frequent or recommend?

MD: With two young children I don’t get to play golf or ski that much right now but when I do I like the Presidio golf course in San Francisco.  It’s challenging and on a clear day it has some great views.  In Napa, I like Silverado Country Club.   Silverado has two 18 hole courses and both are very well maintained and again very challenging.  For skiing, I grew up skiing in Lake Tahoe.  My favorite mountain is Squaw Valley because I know that mountain like the back of my hand.  The other ski area that I like a lot is Alpine Meadows.

HL: As father to two children, what are your favorite family-oriented activities?

MD: Sunday’s are family days at my house.  Right now as a family we are a little bit limited as to what we can do because my daughters are very young, 2 ½ years old and 11 months old.  We spend a lot of time going to the park in our neighborhood. We like to go to the SF Zoo so they can see the different animals.

HL: You are a previous “Rising Star” Chef and One Market is a celebrated San Francisco restaurant. What would be your sage advice to young cooks trying to break on the scene?

MD: As a young cook, you need to work hard and learn as much technique as you can.  Try and find a chef whose food and style you like and see if he or she can mentor you.  Ultimately, it’s all about hard work and dedication.

HL: What’s the best meal you have ever had?

MD: I don’t know if there is one best meal as there have been so many great meals.  I have a list of most memorable meals which include my first Michelin 3 Star experience ever which took place at Arzak in San Sebastian in 1996.  My lunch at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris in 2000, and lunch at El Bulli in Spain in 2000 [were amazing]. My most recent “best” meal was at Cyrus in Healdsburg.  All different meals, and all great!

HL: You are an advocate of unique ingredients, such as lavender. What other flavors interest you?

MD: Any new flavor interests me or any combination of ingredients that creates a new flavor interests me.  I think more importantly, I like strong, balanced flavor and the use of acid to brighten the flavors of ingredients and dishes.