2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Mark Liberman of AQ Restaurant & Bar

2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Mark Liberman of AQ Restaurant & Bar
May 2013

Born in San Francisco and raised in lush Sonoma County, Mark Liberman had a fertile food foundation—thanks in part to his farm-to-table environs and his Colombian mother and Polish father, who presented young Liberman with a wealth of ethnic food options. To transition his passion for food into a career, Liberman headed to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

After graduating with honors in 1998, Liberman staged for four months in France at two Michelin-starred Carre des Feuillantes. He returned to Northern California, where he climbed the ranks at Savoy 614 Bistro in Folsom and Cascade’s in Roseville. In 2005, Liberman moved to Las Vegas, where he worked as saucier at Daniel Boulud Brasserie and then chef de partie at MGM Grand’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Tired Las Vegas restaurant scene, he returned to San Francisco in 2007 to take up the chef de cuisine position at Michelin-starred La Folie, where he worked closely with Chef Roland Passot. The next year, Liberman partnered with his brother, opening Forte, a contemporary Italian concept, located in West Palm Beach, Florida.

In 2010 Liberman was invited to New York to participate in the Bocuse d’Or USA semi-finals, where he placed among the top 10 finalists. Heading back to San Francisco, he joined forces with Restaurateur Matt Semmelhack to collaborate the opening of AQ. After winning rave reviews for his eclectic, season-forward cuisine at AQ, Liberman is working on opening the group’s second restaurant TBD, where he plans to focus on his love of wood-fired cooking.

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Why: The future of America lies with our children; they need to learn about food, and we need to end childhood hunger.

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Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef Mark Liberman

Katherine Sacks: What made you interested in becoming a chef?
Mark Liberman: I didn't grow up in a household with chefs or cooks but I grew up in Northern California, so I was exposed to a lot of good cuisines and produce. Realistically what made me want to start cooking was I got into a lot of the old cooking shows, the “Great Chefs Series,” with Julia Child and Martin Yan. I wanted to get into the field, but it wasn't until I started coking at 17 that I really got the bug for it.

KS: Is there a new technique you’ve created that you really like?
ML: We play around with a lot of techniques here but I’m quick to give credit where it’s due. Like the cheese foam; there was a cold cheese foam in Modernist Cuisine. It’s their technique, but we took it and made it warm. Of course, there are some recipes that are definitely ours.

KS: What is the most challenging thing you’ve had to do in your career?
ML:  Probably opening a restaurant and also I moved around a lot in the begining of my career. It’s somewhat challenging if you have a personal life, you miss all the family events. That’s hard when you are 23, being away from family and friends. I opened restaurants in Las Vegas; it was difficult but also playlandish because they throw money at everything. In the real world, where it’s your money, if you mess up you loose it.

KS: What are you most proud of?
ML: I was very proud to compete for the Bocuse d’Or. It’s not something I want to repeat but I’m happy it’s something I did. I'm very proud of AQ as well. Everyone asked why we opened here, it’s not the greatest corner, and I'm very happy with what we've accomplished here.

KS: Where will we find you in 5 years?
ML: Probably on this block. We just bought a farm, so either on this block or on the farm. We really like this area of San Francisco, and I think it will be even better in five years. I’d like to see more retail, more people living in this area; we would love to serve lunch here.

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