Executive Chef Marc Bernard
Get to know Executive Chef Marc Bernard as he begins his brand new blog right here at bigbowl.com.
A simple, yet profound childhood memory put Big Bowl Executive Chef Marc Bernard squarely on the road to sustainability.
In early 2000 while he was the executive chef at Foodlife, multi-concept urban kitchen in Chicago's Water Tower, Bernard began purchasing local produce from purveyors at the city's farmer's market. Working with them, Bernard said, reminded him of the half-acre edible garden and greenhouse on his family's property in Western Massachusetts.
"My father loved gardening, so growing up we had a garden and a greenhouse," said Bernard a graduate of The Stockbridge School of Agriculture and Cornell University. "In the spring, I would be in the garden, picking spring peas and eating them raw. It's a flavor you don't know exists until you actually experience it. It's entirely different from a box of produce that has been in cold storage warehouse for weeks."
Though Bernard's mother raised the family cooking from the garden, which included strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, corn and a plethora of other vegetables, his interest in cooking did not come until the opportunity to assist his former father-in-law in a family business - starting a restaurant.
Bernard, 48, attended a culinary school in Glenview operated at the time by former chefs of the Ritz Carlton to learn the basics. After opening the family restaurant, Bernard handled the food operations in the early 90s at the Chicago Board of Trade, which included private dining and catering.
In early 2000, Bernard became the executive chef at Foodlife, a Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises concept featuring more than a dozen dining options. When Asian food expert and author Bruce Cost created Wow Bao with LEYE, he enlisted Bernard to handle the daily operations which led to partner and executive chef as the Asian steam bun concept expanded to three locations.
"Bruce laid a foundation for me in Asian cuisine - his vast knowledge, intelligence and sensibility instilled a passion in this kind of cooking," Bernard said. "I was fascinated by the cuisine, its simplicity and complexity."
During that time, Bernard and Cost overhauled Shanghai Circus, a made-to-order Chinese carry out concept in the upscale Lunds and Byerly's grocer stores in Minneapolis. The dine-in and carry out locations are known as Big Bowl Express, a variant of Big Bowl.
"The principals that drive Big Bowl - organic, sustainable, local, natural and eco-friendly - are all things that I am passionate about," Bernard said. "This is a very exciting time."