Ever wondered about the faces behind the food? This is the first in a series of interviews with chefs and other Charlottesville food industry personalities by Curry, a new writer here at Mas to Millers.


GresgeChef Mark Gresge is owner of l’etoile restaurant. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife and three children.

Would the following be an acceptable analogy for the S.A.T.? Alton Brown is to food science as Mark Gresge is to food history.

I’m a chef and a food historian. I love our culinary past, heritage and history, and I want to translate that into the restaurant. I love the technical aspect of cooking. I was an engineer many years ago, so I see the similarities in that but as far as culinary heritage, I seem to be more focused on that. I went to Williamsburg a few years ago, and I asked the master gardener there “What did they eat?” “What did they grow?” I also spoke with the gardeners at Monticello, kind of the forefathers of the local food movement. And then I try to get those items or grow them myself.

You’re no stranger to blogs. What’s going on in your blogosphere?

I’m going to do a post on preparing a garden at home. It will be something simple, very basic. Perhaps how to grow a tomato or try some lettuce. The local movement is in the air. Everyone’s interested but there’s some confusion as to how to get involved.

What should we have in our kitchens? Is there a quintessentially Virginian ingredient that we should all have at hand?

Apples, peaches, the pole bean – a long green been often canned or strung and dried out in Appalachia. There’s really not one that we can pin point. There’s also the Virginia ham from Surry County. The pig is fed peanuts the last month of its life.

You can often be found Saturday mornings at the City Market.

The city lets me come. I’m not a vendor. I get to shamelessly promote my business and hand out things like free dessert coupons. I also do simple demos there using fresh produce. I love the meet and greet atmosphere and hearing folks’ stories.

How did you become interested in locally sourced and foraged foods?

It all goes back to my parents’ age where they ate locally sourced food, and that’s just the way it was. My dad was hip before this local movement. He grew up in Michigan, and he would make the rounds with his brother on a bike and get beef from one supplier and vegetables from another. It’s about using the freshest, highest quality ingredients available. Food doesn’t need a pedigree in the menus. I want to give kudos to the people we work with but not on our menu.

Now for some Quick Fire Questions!

Michelin Star or James Beard Award: James Beard Award

Biggest restaurant pet peeve: The menu not delivering. Too flowery of a menu.

Most used cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Your worst culinary creation: Vanilla sweet potato soup

Music in the kitchen: Grateful Dead and the younger people play speed metal.

Biggest self indulgence: Foie Gras. During the snow storm last year, my wife and I made a Foie Gras tureen. We ate a whole lobe in just a few days.

Fitness routine: Karate

Current ingredient obsession: The pole bean. I actually have seeds ready to plant.

Favorite cooking tool: Tongs.

Least useful cooking gadget: Heat pad gloves. Just use a towel! A towel in one hand, tongs in the other and you’re golden.

Best thing about the job: The hospitality.


The interview is coming to an end. Not be morbid, but I’d like to move on to the subject of The Last Supper. What would be your last meal on earth?

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and coleslaw.

What would be the setting for the meal?

We vacation in Michigan at Gravel Lake which is where my wife used to vacation when she was a little girl. It would be on the lake. Lunch or dinner time, it wouldn’t matter as long as I’m there.

What would you drink with your meal?

Bell’s Brewery is nearby, so I would have Bell’s Beer.

Who would be your dining companions?

My family – my wife and three kids.

Who would prepare the meal?

I would.

Would there be music?

The Kinks’s Village Green Preservation Society album and Grateful Dead’s acoustic Reckoning album.