50 Questions With Chef Mark Perrier Of The Fraserhood’s Savio Volpe

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The Big Interview asks 50+ questions – some serious, some irreverent – the answers to which (we hope) reveal enough of a character to uncommonly contextualise their endeavours. Today, the exchange is with Mark Perrier, a chef who – together with L’Abattoir owner Paul Grunberg and designer Craig Stanghetta – is on the verge of opening a hotly anticipated Italian restaurant in the Fraserhood called Osteria Savio Volpe.

The thing that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? Crappy sugary cereal.

Default drink/cocktail of choice? A cold beer. I’m not picky.

Dogs or cats? Dogs.

The Rolling Stones or The Beatles? Stones.

The song that you could listen to on repeat for an hour? The Ecstasy of Gold by Ennio Morricone.

Your neighbourhood? East Van, specifically The Drive.

The strangest talent that you possess? I can slam dunk a basketball. I’m also a professional diaper changer.

Whose kitchen do you envy? I prefer the word “respect” to envy. I really respect chefs like Mario Batali, Marc Vetri and Jamie Oliver. These are chefs who use their success in the kitchen and business to lift up and improve the lives of others. Whether it is partnering with employees to open their own places, starting their own charities to support causes they believe in, or even trying to change the way an entire nation eats.

What keeps you up at night? I’m so tired all the time, I can always sleep.

Three role models? My wife Nancy, Chef David Hawksworth, and Chef Michel Roux Jr..

Your major character flaw? My temper.

The character flaw in others that you can’t stand? People who do not follow through with commitments.

Coffee or tea? I’m a chef. Coffee.

In 10 words or less, describe the food concept at Savio Volpe. Simple, honest, rustic Italian food cooked from a local perspective.

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The strangest place you’ve ever been to? The Kennedy School Hotel in Portland, sleeping in a creepy old classroom and smoking cigars and drinking scotch in the old janitor’s room [link].

What’s for breakfast at home? Coffee, toast and fruit.

Where are you taking us for brunch? Dim Sum at Kirin City Square.

Three books that made an impact on you in your formative years? J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Marco Pierre White’s White Heat, and The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook.

Your biggest fear? Public speaking.

What was the unluckiest moment in your life? The night my best friend Robert died. I was with him. We were 21.

What was the luckiest moment in your life? The night I met my wife.

The first album that made you love music? NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. Still love gangster rap.

Why do you think it’s hard for Vancouver chefs to find/keep cooks these days? Not everyone is cut out for this line of work. Cooking is an extremely difficult, often thankless, socially isolating and initially low paying job. It takes years of sacrifice, dedication and hard work to become a chef. Many people entering this profession do not fully understand this. They have unrealistic expectations and end up quitting once the harsh reality of the job sets in.

What do you do when you can’t sleep? Read cookbooks.

Two historical personalities, one good and one bad, that fascinate you the most? Fernand Point and Ghengis Khan. Like everybody else, I’m sure they were both “good” and “bad”.

What trend have you followed that you now regret? Cooking food in plastic bags.

The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair? Dyed it bleach blonde. I looked like a muppet.

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What would you like to change about Vancouver? I would get rid of all of the casual fine dining chain restaurants that dominate the Vancouver dining scene. Other than that, I love it here.

Your go to, no-frills place for dinner? Rinconcito Salvedoreno Restaurant.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you? Italy.

Where did you go to school? UBC. I have a BSC in Forestry.

Clue us in to your career before Savio Volpe. Where else have you worked? I apprenticed at West Restaurant under Chef David Hawksworth. After that it was Le Gavroche in London, then CinCin and Cibo here in Vancouver. I’ve spent the last 2½ years working as a butcher at Two Rivers Specialty Meats.

Favourite Vancouver building? Brewery Creek Building on East 6th. It used to be my home.

The cliché that you overuse? “This is my absolute favourite thing to eat.”

Shoe of choice? My motorcycle boots, Wolverine 1000 Mile.

The different career path that you could have gone on? A conservation officer.

Your ancestry? French, Norse, English, German.

Three films you would gladly watch again? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Big Lebowski, and Goodfellas.

Three favourite dishes in YVR? Papusas and the El Salvadorean rice and beans dinner platter at Rinconcito; Cheeseburger and Fries at the Main Street Vera’s Burger Shack; any pizza at Via Tevere.

Your most regrettable purchase ever? Skinny jeans without trying them on first.

As a chef, where are you strongest and weakest in the kitchen? Strongest: meat/fish butchery and cooking. Weakest: definitely pastry — I’ve got no patience for it.

Can you ballpark Savio Volpe’s opening date? Early November.

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What are you the most proud of? My children.

What are you the least proud of? How I have treated people in the past. I’ve been a real asshole at times.

The biggest mistake you’ve ever made? Not traveling more when I was in my 20’s.

The best thing about your work? I get to cook everyday.

The worst thing about your work? Being away from my family.

The talent that you wish you possessed? I would love to be great dancer. I’m terrible.

If you had a motto, what would it be? Work harder than everybody else.

Scariest situation you’ve ever been in? I almost died a few times mountaineering with my father as a child. He’s crazy.

Your favourite curse word? Only used in the kitchen – starts with C and rhymes with stunt. Usually used in combination with other choice words.

What object of no monetary value will you keep dearly until you die? My children’s baby photos.

The most beautiful place in the world? My family’s cabin in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Your first memory? Going to the hospital to meet my little brother the day he was born.

The one place that you have the least interest in ever visiting? I would visit anywhere.

The best way to go, in the very end? Massive Heart Attack while doing some manual labour in my garden as an old boy.

How would you like to be remembered? As a kind and gentle man who loved to make people happy by cooking for them.

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