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Best New Chefs 2009: Mark Fuller

Mark Fuller

Spring Hill, Seattle


Born: Seattle; 1970.

Education: The Culinary Institute of America; Hyde Park, NY.

Experience: A Pacific Café, Kauai, HI; Lucy’s Table, Portland, OR; Dahlia Lounge, Seattle.

We loved: Olive-oil-poached albacore tuna with smoked king clam panzanella, arugula and avocado.

Philanthropic detour:
“My mother’s family is from Kauai, Hawaii. After Hurricane Iniki [in 1992], I went to help with rebuilding. I ended up cooking at A Pacific Café, for chef Jean-Marie Josselin. Seeing his food was amazing to me. It dramatically changed my perspective on cooking.”

Career detour:
Selling cars when he returned to Seattle after cooking school. “Finding a chef position can be very difficult. A lot of times, it’s all about knowing someone. Luckily, I met Tom Douglas [owner of Dahlia Lounge and seminal Seattle chef] soon after that, because I didn’t care for selling cars.”

Humbling moment:
“I once served underbraised brisket to 50 Jewish people at Dahlia Lounge for a sold-out cookbook dinner. Tom [Douglas] made me go out in the dining room to take the blame. Luckily, he’d worked the room so well before dinner that everyone was in a good mood. They all just lectured me on how to cook brisket properly.”

Equipment obsession:
“I’m very thankful for my vacuum sealer—for preservation more than cooking. If you have a piece of fish that you’re refrigerating to use for a second day, it stays pristine. I think every kitchen should have one.”

Favorite childhood dishes:
Saimin noodles. “It’s Hawaiian ramen. It’s influenced by all the different cultures who worked in the cane fields; they all wanted to eat ramen. It’s similar to Japanese ramen—whole eggs, fish cakes, noodles—with Spam or sandwich ham in it. A large bowl is $4. Also, broiled sun-dried Hawaiian mackerel with white rice, my grandmother’s fried chicken wings and, yes...Spam.”

Memorable meal:
Lunch at Jean Georges in New York City. “I had slow-cooked veal loin with fried bread and a tomato caponata. It was clean and outstanding. No sauce, everything was cooked just right and the flavors of the tomato just punched out.”

Fantasy splurge:
Hand-pulled noodles (a.k.a. “longevity noodles”) in China. “I’ve been trying to make them, and it’s shockingly hard work. You make the dough and work the glutens; once the dough is stretchy, you roll it out, then you make a rope and pull it as you open up your arms. But the problem is getting consistency in the noodles—some are too thick, but they’ll break if they’re too thin. My friend was learning, too, and we used to share techniques, but then he stopped: I think he’s figured it out. I’ve given up.“

Favorite YouTube videos:
Hand-pulled noodle demo clips. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui4qq2NSVBs&NR=1

Favorite cheap eat:
Vegetable dumplings at Seattle’s Szechuan Noodle Bowl.

Favorite value dish:
“On Monday nights, we started doing spaghetti and meatballs—really good meatballs stewed in tomato sauce. It’s been so popular we haven’t been able to change it; it’s cultish.”

Guilty pleasure:
American cheese, for grilled cheese or cheeseburgers. “I can’t help it, I was raised on it. I like pork rinds a lot, too.”

After-hours hangout:
Ga Ga Loc, in Seattle’s Chinatown. “I was there twice last week until 3 a.m. We get the soft egg with beef, the chow mein noodles, salt-and-pepper squid and Sichuan tofu.”

Favorite cookbooks:
La Technique by Jacques Pépin, The French Laundry Cookbook (“Very influential to me. And to a lot of people.”) and Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point.

Best New Chef Recipes & More:

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