Mark Ferguson: From San Francisco to Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek CO, Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Spago, at the Ritz-Carlton in Beaver Creek, is one of world-renowned chef and restaurateur icon Wolfgang Puck’s fine dining restaurants.
And Mark Ferguson, one of Eagle’s own, is Spago’s executive chef.
Ferguson creates the innovative dishes, such as the pan-roasted venison with juniper reduction and Fuji apple-celery compote, served to the high-end restaurant patrons.
Ferguson, a Denver native, did not conventionally work his way up the culinary ladder and never expected his career to end up the way it has.
Ferguson says his godfather was a great cook, who maintained that “cooking was the best way to get girls.” Growing up, Ferguson remembers trying to recreate and evolve dishes he and his mother enjoyed when they dined out. He never realized how influential these memories would be later in his life.
After majoring in business in college, Ferguson decided to attend culinary school in San Francisco.
“I thought that I would be trained classically as a chef and then would do something else. I didn’t realize when I first committed to culinary school that this would be the end result,” says Ferguson.
When Ferguson started culinary school, his determination to be influential in the culinary world boiled.
“I walked into restaurants when I finally made it to San Francisco that were the hippest, hottest restaurants in the city and I realized at that point just how cool of a scene it was,” says Ferguson.
Ferguson then started ‘working his tail off’ to make up for lost cooking time.
“When I started finally cooking I realized that I had lost a lot of time going to college, and learning the business side but not the true cooking side of it,” says Ferguson.
While attending culinary school, Ferguson got a job at one of the biggest-name restaurants in San Francisco.
“Going to school and working at the same time, just hammering away for two years straight, sped things up,” says Ferguson.
Then Ferguson’s big break happened.
A co-worker at the restaurant left for Las Vegas to jockey for a position at Wolfgang Puck’s new Spago location.
“On a total gut instinct I just packed up to move to Vegas to see what happened,” says Ferguson.
His co-worker landed the gig as executive chef and Ferguson slid into the sous chef position.
“So I skipped a lot of steps to become a sous chef right off the bat as opposed to working my way through it,” says Ferguson.
In a little over a year Ferguson worked his way up to the chef de cuisine or executive chef, and ran Spago in Vegas for eight years. He eventually went on to open Wolfgang Puck’s Italian concept down the strip at Mandalay Bay.
“It was cool to be on the forefront of the culinary scene because when we opened Spago in ’92 there was nothing else there. We were the pioneers out there as far as bringing fine cuisine to a buffet mentality,” says Ferguson.
But two years ago when the opportunity presented itself to open the fourth Spago in Beaver Creek, avid Ferguson jumped at the chance to leave Sin City and head to the mountains.
Since then Ferguson has worked hard to bring the freshest local food and to go over the top for his Spago customers.
“We put so much time, pride and effort into the food” says Ferguson. “We upped the ante a little bit on food and dining in the valley. Hopefully another restaurant comes along and does the same to us.”
Katie Drucker can be reached at email@example.com