Chef Mark Shadle, a vegetarian for 26 years, grew up in a traditional meat eating family. Mark credits his mother for his interests in slow foods & sourcing locally. "She was a great inspiration to me," he says. "We had an enormous garden. Part of my chores was to help with the gardens, weeding & harvesting." Moreover, Mark grew up on his uncles farm in rural Pennsylvania helping with the hay, feeding the animals and milking the cows. "I saw it all first hand," he says. "There was a great respect for the food and the land." Marks deep reverence for farming, nature and foods stayed with him his whole life and became his life passion and work.
Mark is largely self-taught but credits his mentorship under Chef Chris Perdue at L"American while it was an exclusive and prominent french restaurant in Hartford from 84'-89. He worked with many chefs overs the years, but credits Perdue and his mom, Carol Shadle the most. Marks takes his inspiration from his favorite reference, 'The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc," a gorgeously illustrated compilation of food artistry based on the acclaimed restaurant in the Burgundy region of France. The spirit of this style of cooking can be found in many of his recipes.
A Middletown CT native started out in the original La Boca when he was a teen and worked in a number of well know restaurants through out the state. His part time job at "ION", "It's Only Natural Restaurant" in 1989 turned into a full time gig when he bought the business from the original owner and founder Ken Bergeron in 1993. Marks commitment to vegetarianism occurred a bit earlier when he took up cycling and racing in the mid 80's. He noticed when he followed a Vegetarian and organic diet that his performance and endurance when he was cycling was at its peak. He has maintained this clean, vegetarian lifestyle to this day.
In 1992, Mark and vegan chef Ken Bergeron competed in the Culinary Olympics in Germany and took top honors and placed with both a Gold and Silver metal. This extraordinary competition occurs ever four years and requires two years of training. Marks greatest achievement was when he went to the Culinary Olympics for a second tie in 1996 and won two gold metals and a bronze in the Natural Foods Vegetarian category, beating out teams form around the world and Non- Vegetarian recipes.
Throughout his career, Marks extensive knowledge, hands on experience, deep respect for food and nature has made his approach to holistic cuisine completely unique and his own style.