Galen Zamarra, who was born in Switzerland and raised in California, learned to cook at a very young age. “My mom was a single mom, and she didn’t cook,” he explains, taking to the stoves out of necessity at first. “But being a chef was always something I dreamed of.”
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Zamarra began his restaurant career at the original Bouley as garde manger. He was beginning to work his way up the ladder when Chef Bouley closed the restaurant to renovate. Zamarra left the U.S. to stage at assorted Michelin 3-star restaurants in France: Michel Bras, Georges Blanc, and L’Arpege, where he cooked for one defining year.
Zamarra’s year at L’Arpege working under renowned Chef Alain Passard was an experience that defined him as a chef. “The restaurant’s philosophy was very influential in the way I cook today,” he says. “L’Arpege is French for arpeggio, a musical term that describes how notes work together to make harmony, and that is how the chef described food, as putting the notes of flavors together to make harmony in the mouth.”
After L’Arpege, Zamarra returned to New York and worked at Union Pacific before resuming his post with Chef Bouley at the newly renovated Bouley Bakery. He rose through the ranks to Chef de Cuisine, earning a coveted Rising Star Chef award from The James Beard Foundation in 2001.
In the years since Bouley Bakery closed its doors after the catastrophic events of 9/11, Zamarra searched for a place to call his own, where he could showcase locally farmed seasonal ingredients. He opened Mas (Farmhouse) with partners Hugh Crickmore, formerly of Marseille, and Tom Wilson, formerly of Nice Matin. At Mas, Zamarra draws on his classical French training to create a collection of seasonally-inspired dishes that consistently garner praise: Esquire Magazine named Mas “one of the best new restaurants in the U.S,” New York Magazine called Mas “one of the 100 best reasons to love New York City,” and Chef Zamarra won a 2006 StarChefs.com Rising Star award.
Building off his success at Mas (farmhouse), Chef Zamarra expanded his culinary endeavors with a second restaurant, Mas (la grillade) in October, 2011. Meaning “the grill” in French, Mas (la grillade) is anchored on a wood burning grill and a strong local, seasonal standard. Even the wood is locally-sourced from local farms and orchards, allowing Zamarra to tap into a more ancient and localized culture—while still creating sophisticated modern cuisine.