Mark Gresge is a self proclaimed food nerd. He loves food. He loves researching food history, learning about why people eat what they eat, what foods pertain to particular regions — he can’t get enough. We all know that food nerds are not a rarity in Charlottesville. Yet, it’s the path that Mark’s passion led him down that’s rare. Mark went from being an engineer who loved to cook, to owning and operating the Main St. restaurant L’etoile with his wife, Vickie Gresge.
L’etoile focuses on the “Country French” style of cooking, but Mark will be the first to say that he does not run a French restaurant. In his mind, L’etoile is a Virginian restaurant that uses French techniques. When you look at the amount of Virginia-grown products featured on his menu, this makes perfect sense.
The Gresges do not buy products to meet the demands of a French menu. Rather, they buy fresh, locally grown food as often as they can, and then use French techniques to accentuate the local flavor. Buying local produce and meats is important to Mark for many reasons. Yet, his primary reason is to provide the best quality product for his customers.
Mark and his staff are always thinking of new ways to get fresh food. Not only do they work with a number of local farms– customers are encouraged to bring in produce from their gardens to be prepared as a special. And, this year, L’etoile started their own garden at the restaurant. So, customers will be eating some produce that was picked by the chef himself. For Mark, the quest for the best and freshest food is all a part of his job:
“When the door opens and a guest comes in, they chose to come here,” Mark says. “We make a commitment on our end to honor their choice by giving them the best experience we can offer… And that means providing them with the best tasting food we can find.”