By GLYNIS VALENTI
Times Leader Staff Writer
BETHESDA-Setting out on a path doesn't insure that one will arrive at the planned destination. In 1981, Chef Mark Glass, born in Pittsburgh, was moving back to the United States from the Virgin Islands and traveling cross country to California to visit his brother. He stopped in Colorado to see friends-and got a job at a restaurant.
Chef Mark Glass prepares some vegetables at his deli kitchen in Bethesda.
This detour was the beginning of a new career and love of food that took him to several parts of the world until his arrival in the Ohio Valley 15 years ago. "I never did make it to my brother's," he laughs.
When he stopped in Colorado, he liked the area and decided to earn a little extra money for his cross country trip. Taking a job washing dishes at a restaurant gave him a glimpse into the industry, and he worked his way up to cook. Working with food appealed to him, and he enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont in 1985.
This hands on program taught Glass the French techniques that he uses to this day. "Nothing was demonstration. Everything we made was sold." Students at NECI prepare the meals for the school's restaurants and use locally grown ingredients. Internships in Napa Valley, the Caribbean and France rounded out and elevated his education and experience with food.
Returning to Colorado, he ran various kitchens until he and his wife, Melody, moved to Montana for the skiing. There, he opened two restaurants for other people and finally opened his own, where Glass says he created one of his most memorable meals: duck breast with French flageolet beans, pears and duck jus for a group from Seattle
Fifteen years ago, the Glasses decided to move closer to Mark's family in the Ohio Valley. He worked in Pittsburgh for a short time, then became the executive chef at the Belmont Hills Country Club in St. Clairsville and was there for about 12 years. He purchased Bethesda's Market three years ago, allowing him to develop his own catering business. The market has a delicatessen and serves to-go items like sandwiches and soups. Smiling, Glass says, "I keep trying to get out of the business, but I can't stay away."
Giving people a food experience is what keeps Glass in the game, whether it's dinner for four or a wedding for 250. "Everything is ala carte and has to taste good. I don't mess around with the natural flavors, and when the food is ready it has to be served now because it can change in 30 seconds." Though he uses a minimal amount of spices to let the food flavors come through, he does like working with vinegars, mustards and onions. He's a fan of simple cooking and one-pot meals in the country French style.
He says he'll cook any type of food-German, French, Indian, Persian-but it's about giving people what they want and working with the client with no set menus. Glass thinks one of the best ways to get to know food better is at a "small, food-intensive" dinner party with friends. The combination of smells, flavors and colors where "everything has weight" can be memorable. "I get a real rush out of something that's well-made," he adds. "The smells-I love the smells, like the smell of a roasting pepper."
He began buying more locally grown foods when he was in Montana, a practice that he and many other chefs prefer over large distributors. "I buy local as much as I can. Sometimes I can get better deals with local producers. Sometimes my (catering) clients will provide the food they want to use."
On Sunday, Aug. 21, Glass will be one of the area chefs participating in the "Farm to Table" event at Oglebay Institute. "I think it should be a good event, and it's to Oglebay's credit to host it. The grounds are beautiful; it's one of the best event locations in the Valley."
He's looking forward to showcasing fresh eggs and chicken by serving up frittatas, omelets and pates. "Some people are starting to get the concept of farm to table, but are not really aware of where their food comes from or how it's prepared because of, literally, a wall between the restaurant dining room and kitchen. This will give people a chance to meet the producers and the chefs."
Bethesda's Market is located at 226 Maple Avenue in Bethesda. For information on catering contact Glass at (740) 484-4035.