Mark Estee – the owner of Burger Me!, Heritage and Campo Restaurant, all in Reno and should-be-George Clooney lookalike – gave everyone a taste of his style when he appeared on Food Network's Guy's Grocery Games, hosted by Guy Fieri. As he tells us, chefs don't leave Reno behind in the Nevada dust when they make it, as the city won't let amazing talent run away just like that...
How is the culinary vibe similar and yet different from Las Vegas to Reno?
Reno and Las Vegas are similar in that they both are in the great state of Nevada. I have been to Vegas a few times and it is a very fun and wild city. I like to visit there, but I love to LIVE in Reno. The culinary vibe in Reno is on the rise! From the local breweries, distilleries and new restaurants popping up we have great days and nights ahead. Vegas has some of the best, most well-known chefs and restaurants in the world. Many of these establishments are outposts of the original. Reno has all originals, maybe someday we will have a place in Vegas? Maybe that means we made it? Or maybe we stay right here in Reno, our biggest little city.
Other than you believing it’s good, why do you think your Burger Me’s hamburger made the top spot on Guy Fieri’s 2013 list?
The Burger made that list based on the ingredients we used to make it. Basically we put the best parts of an Italian grinder on a burger. I call that a 2 for 1…..I get 2 of my favorite meals in one!
When you later competed on his TV show, how did you stand out amongst the contestants?
Aside from sweating pretty badly and cutting my hand, the biggest thing may have been my cat like moves. Did you see how fast I was moving that grocery cart? Did you see me sprint off the line for the trivia challenge?! I mean, I was like the flash.
Esquire also approved Campo for its selections. What on the menu appeals to the typical Esquire man AND a woman he is taking on a date?
The Esquire deal comes from the fact that we have amazing handmade pasta on the menu, couple that with the way we work with whole animals and you have a winner. The menu has a great mix of items for him, for her and for them to share! The setting of Campo is perfect for the typical man: great food, great drinks and amazing service…..and for the non-typical man we have all this plus zampone!
For your fresh ingredients, how many farms and areas did you visit before deciding on the proper suppliers?
Farmers and ranchers are coming and going seasonally at all our establishments. Our team has been to visit over 40 of them. Some stay, some go, this is the way it is when working with artisanal producers. This is a standout part of my day - it’s by far the best! I love working directly with these rock stars!
When you have a bad day, what makes you want to continue cooking tomorrow?
If I have a bad day, and I do, they are just few and far between thankfully, I have a small ritual I go through. I recognize the fact I had a bad day, I look to see where I could have changed that bad day, I own what is mine and make plans to not have the same mistake happen again. The pure fact that I get up and do it again is what makes being a chef the best.
This article originally appeared en español on my ELLE Spain blog.
ELLE Spain discontinued their freelance blog journalism program in 2016. I have republished it on NicoleRussinMcFarland.com once again so my journalism may live on. I am grateful for the experiences I had from 2011-2016 writing for my personal Spanish language blog, revista ELLE for providing the blog, and the time from all of my interviewees.