The comedian Woody Allen is attributed with saying, “Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.”
However, while Mark Purdy, Chef de Cuisine at Alizé, has been in the right place at the right time throughout his career, he has earned his success through talent and tenacity. Purdy is very focused on the goals that he seeks to achieve and his culinary philosophy and skill are sure to take him there.
Purdy’s culinary origins are less traditional than other chefs of his caliber. A graduate from Skidmore College with a bachelor’s in studio art and art history, Purdy eschewed culinary school for an opportunity to work at I Matti, a cozy trattoria-style Italian eatery in Washington, D.C. owned by Roberto Donna. Donna is a 1996 recipient of the James Beard award for best chef and proprietor of D.C. restaurant Galileo.
“I was lucky enough to learn on the job,” said Purdy in reminiscing over his first professional restaurant position, “I was paid to learn.” It was an education that Purdy values as it introduced him to the art of simplicity, an art that he’s strived to perfect over the years.
“It took me a long time to learn restraint,” commented Purdy about mastering this daunting lesson. “What’s true in the kitchen is true in life. No reason to complicate things.” Purdy admires masters like André Rochat and Charlie Palmer as examples of restraint. “It’s amazing what they do…they’re my heroes.”
Purdy knows of whom he speaks, having worked with Charlie Palmer prior to joining André Rochat at Alizé. Purdy joined Palmer’s New York restaurant Aureole after I Matti and credits his time with Palmer as a turning point for him as a chef.
“Working with Charlie Palmer made me…absolutely,” commented Purdy. “I credit my experience in New York, specifically Aureole…like a boot camp, basic training.”
At that time, in the mid-90s, Aureole was rated number one in New York by Zagat.
Purdy’s success at Aureole didn’t go unnoticed by Palmer who promoted his protégé to executive sous chef at Aureole, Mandalay Bay Las Vegas. Purdy opened and operated the restaurant and gained some valuable management experience. He next moved to another Palmer venture in Healdsburg, California, Dry Creek Kitchen, in 2001. It was a new restaurant with the young chef managing preconstruction to restaurant operations.
“I’ll always treasure that time,” stated Purdy. “That was my first solo flight and one of the best experiences.”
Along the way, Purdy succeeded in earning three and a half stars for Dry Creek Kitchen proving Palmer’s faith in Purdy’s culinary talent and management capabilities.
“I still call myself the luckiest cook in America,” said Purdy. “As my father would say, ‘Luck will only get you so far.’ You really need to capitalize on those opportunities.”
It most likely was these culinary coups that caught André Rochat’s attention. From Healdsburg, Purdy returned to Las Vegas in 2004 to open and operate a new Rochat venture, Mistral. From there, Purdy moved to Alizé, where he’s been Chef de Cuisine since 2005.
Being with Andre Rochat is like culinary finishing school. “People come into your life at the right time. That’s why I’m with André now,” said Purdy. “Andre is a master of management.”
Purdy’s goal is to constantly evolve and at this time, he seeks to manage a well-run kitchen. “My goal is to have the best guys in the city. I believe I’ve accomplished that,” stated Purdy. “It doesn’t matter what your style is or how good it is, if you can’t run a kitchen. It doesn’t matter how good your food is if you don’t master the rest of it.”
Purdy knows it takes a lot of time, effort and dedication. He possesses these capabilities in spades yet recognizes the importance of a balanced life.
“If I could, I’d be here seven days a week,” Purdy admitted. “I know from these lessons to not do that. Gotta live my life now.”
And Purdy does. When out of the kitchen, he enjoys the outdoors and getting out of the “stainless steel box” he’s in all day. Kayaking is his diversion of choice at this time; however, he will not compromise on eating well. “All I bring is a little cutting board, a paring knife, and salt and pepper, vegetables and protein,” elaborated Purdy. “That’s my favorite thing to cook now.”
When asked his favorite dish without hesitation Purdy replied, “Dover sole…all day long. It’s the perfect fish. It is a crowning jewel of simplicity. It needs nothing else.”
And this in many ways sums up Mark Purdy at this point in his career. Relishing his role at Alizé and his work with Andre Rochat, it’s clear why Purdy can say, “I’m really enjoying right now.”