Since his arrival on the culinary scene nearly three decades ago, Chef Mark Franz has launched several successful restaurants, earned numerous prestigious awards, and written a cookbook chronicling his most beloved dishes. He attributes gaining such widespread recognition for his culinary skill to his use of quality ingredients, consistency in achieving goals, and overall serving great food in his restaurants. “I like to say that the food should always be the star,” he says. “It’s about letting the ingredients guide me, and that’s what has given my restaurants such staying power. When the focus is on high-quality food, guests continue to come back for it.”
Franz opened his signature restaurant, Farallon, in 1997 with designer and restaurateur Pat Kuleto. Located in San Francisco’s historic Union Square district, Farallon offers Franz’s sophisticated interpretations of coastal cuisine in a setting akin to the lost city of Atlantis. “Opening Farallon was the culmination of my experiences as a chef and showed me what it takes to build a restaurant from the ground up,” he says. “We thought carefully about the décor and how we wanted to approach the dining experience. By having a great team of goal-oriented, generous staff, we ensure that our guests enjoy every facet of Farallon.”
Franz and Farallon earned critical acclaim in the first year of business, including a nomination for Best New Restaurant in the country from the James Beard Foundation. In 2001, Franz co-wrote with Lisa Weiss The Farallon Cookbook (Chronicle Books), which highlights many of the signature dishes that he made famous over the years. Franz received the “Chef of the Decade” award in 2002 by the California Culinary Academy, his alma mater; in the same year, Farallon received the prestigious Distinguished Restaurants of North America award. Ten years after Farallon’s debut, Franz partnered again with Kuleto to open the seafood-centric Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Tomales Bay. In 2008, the duo launched Waterbar in San Francisco.
A Bay Area native, Franz also earned his culinary stripes during his decade-long tenure as executive chef at landmark San Francisco restaurant Stars. There, he helped guide the establishment to become one of the most successful restaurants in the world, known as the birthplace of California cuisine. As a member and corporate officer of the restaurant’s StarTeam, he was instrumental in designing and opening the Peak Café in Hong Kong, 690 Speedo and Stars Café in San Francisco, and Stars Oakville Café. Franz also made major contributions in the kitchens of other Bay Area restaurants including Balboa Café, Santa Fe Bar & Grill, Big Horn Grill, and the once-renowned Ernie’s.
“I started working with John and Christine at Pacific Gourmet in the early days of Stars Restaurant and have followed through Farallon, Waterbar, and Epic Restaurants. From day one the feeling that they cared about what we ordered and why and what we were going to do with the product was very evident, John would call and we would talk in depth of my plans to use certain ingredients, and he brought a chefs knowledge to the conversation. I can say that the only time I pick up my phone in the middle of service is when John calls. An amazing company with fantastic service and a genuine concern of doing the best for their customers and their products.” – Mark Franz