• Kay & Shi

Interview With Entrepreneurial Pioneer Chef Mark Estee

Chef Mark Estee is a community leader and nationally recognized chef who is dedicated to building a thriving restaurant culture right here in our home town of Reno, NV. Estee owns and operates seven restaurants, where menu offerings encompass his philosophy of simple, seasonal, fresh and local. He has pioneered a new style of how food is prepared and served that is fueled by his farm-to-fork and whole hog philosophy. Just a couple of many awards that Mark has achieved are Nevada’s top chef and Entrepreneur of the year and you may have seen him make a debut in Guy’s Grocery Games and Bite this with Nadia G along with many others. In other words he’s kind of a big deal.


His stardom started when he first moved to Tahoe from Boston in 1996 and he quickly became the youngest executive chef at the Lone Eagle Grill. In 2002 he went from employee to entrepreneur and never looked back! He debuted with the acclaimed Moody’s restaurant in Truckee, CA. Since then he’s owned a collected of successful concepts including, Campo, Liberty Food & Wine Exchange and many more. A self proclaimed “hot head chef” when he started out more than 20 years ago, Mark recognizes now that he had a lot of room for growth if he wanted to achieve the dreams he had. It took time, work and guidance from those around him to develop those skills and he was disciplined enough to spend time working on himself.


Before “chef culture” was in style, Mark was drawn to the industry and quit traditional higher education. Despite his family and friends opinions he put his whole heart and focus into being a chef and learning the industry. He quickly became enthralled with the food industry after getting a job at Pizzeria Uno making salads and recalls his parents being amazed by the shift in his passion and motivation.


“If everything was always so smooth than I wouldn’t be able to be the person that I am. All those things that I went through that were really difficult business wise, professional wise, personal wise, all those things have made me and are continuing to make me the person that I am.”


Chef Mark recalls when he brought his “whole hog” philosophy of using every piece of the hog and reducing waste to Reno with Campo that they did was groundbreaking but they never set out to break ground they just followed their philosophy and what they believed in. When they came to Reno they didn’t focus on themselves and say “look at me” they focused on the community and people. This is a lesson that Mark said every business owner, whether in the restaurant industry or not, should take to heart.


Side note: Chef Mark Estee still invests in his growth to this day by shadowing and working in other restaurants for free! We are SO impressed by his ability to check his ego and never feel like he’s too good for growth and the results definitely show through with both his character and successes!


What’s chef Marks one piece of advice to his 20 year old self? Seeing the bigger picture. This means sometimes putting the career tunnel vision aside and being present for those big life moments. We had such a great interview with Chef Mark Estee and we’re so grateful for his time and lessons that he shared with us as well as you. Mark is truly a model of an entrepreneurial pioneer that we admire greatly and continue to look up to.


You can listen to Chef Mark Estee’s full interview on the Millennial Mentorship podcast this Tuesday here!

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