Chef Mark Shadle, a vegetarian for 26 years grew up in a traditional meat eating family and spent time in rural Pennsylvania on his family's farm, driving tractors, haying, planting the garden and milking the cows. "I saw it all first hand," he says. "There was a great respect for the food and the land." Mark's deep reverence for farming and foods stayed with him his whole life and became his life passion and mission. Mark is largely self taught, but credits his mother, Carol Shadle for his interest in slow foods and sourcing ingredients locally. He takes great inspiration from his favorite reference, "The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc," a gorgeously illustrated compilation of food artistry based on the acclaimed restaurant in the Burgundy region of France. The spirit of this can be found in many of his recipes and in his unique style. A Middletown CT native, Mark started out at the original La Boca Restaurant when he was teen and then worked at several prestigious fine -dining restaurants throughout the state, including the prominent french restaurant L'American. His part time job at "ION", "It's Only Natural" turned into a full time career when he purchased it from the original owner Ken Bergeron in 1993 and the rest is culinary history. For the last 17 years since purchasing it, ION has gone on to become the Mecca for Vegetarians & Vegans in CT and the entire East coast and is a highly respected Award Winning restaurant for local, organic, sustainable culinary cuisine.
In 1992, Mark and vegan Chef Ken Bergeron took top honors in the world wide International Culinary Olympics in Germany taking home TWO Golds and Silver metal. This extraordinary competition occurs ever four years and requires two years of rigorous training. Mark's greatest achievement was when he went to the Culinary Olympics for a second time in 1996 and won two Golds and a Bronze in the Natural Foods Vegetarian category- beating out and competing against teams from around the globe and Non-vegetarian categories- This speaks for itself.
The concept of Farm to Table, in its purist sense conjures images of wholesome food being plucked right from the garden and served directly to the table. But Chef Shadle is bringing added value to this recent hot trend in food culture by focusing on the vital importance of preserving small organic CT farmlands and growing his own nutritious food. Shadle Farm, the farm he purchased in 2008 has become one of the organic suppliers for his very own restaurant and his upcoming new innovative food business getting ready to launch with wife Ami in SPRING 2011.
In April 2010, Mark had the high honor of traveling to the White House along with other chefs from CT to hear First Lady Michelle Obama speak to them directly and have a private tour of the White House Gardens. He is passionately involved with Obama's nationwide initiative called "Chefs Move to Schools " which pairs chefs with a local school in his/her community and encourages them to expose children to healthier food choices and education about local, organic & sustainable foods. He feels that this mission is an absolute necessity and is excited to be involved in such a direct way in making an impact that will help shape future generations to come.
Throughout his culinary career, Marks extensive knowledge of both cooked and Living foods, hands on experience and deep respect of nature has cultivated his approach to holistic cuisine in a way that is distinctively his own. You simply can taste the love in everything he cooks.