Executive Chef Mark Ayers
When a young person decides to veer away from a conventional career (in this case, engineering) and become an artist, that persons parents might be understandably concerned. Mark Ayers, Executive Chef for the Park Hyatt Carmel, Highlands Inn and Pacifics Edge Restaurant, encountered just such resistance.
My parents could not understand why I would want to give up a safe and ordinary pursuit such as engineering to attend The Culinary Institute of America [in Hyde Park, New York] to take up the life of a cook. Now that Mark is the executive chef of one of the most prestigious hospitality conclaves in America, he says, theyve become OK with my choice.
We would hope so, as the cooks life doesnt get much better than this. Chef Ayers oversees not only Pacifics Edge, but also the California Market and all room-service and banquet operations. When asked what he does with his free time, he replies, What free time?
Typical of most executive chefs, Chef Ayers is married to his job. I do have a 20s ski boat that spends a lot of time tied up at Lake San Antonio, he says. I love to hike and golf, but Im lucky if I get to find time a few times a week to take a walk with my black Labrador, Jake, at the beach.
The notion of cook as artist is very common in the food industry, and it suits Chef Ayers to a turn. He has the demeanor of an artist, with a gentle nature and long, graceful arms and fingers. He talks with his hands, and as he rhapsodizes about food his gesticulations make him look like a concert pianist warming up for a Mozart concerto.
Im a traditionalist, he says. (just like a realist artist?) When it comes to cooking, I look for the best ingredients and then get out of the way. I like to let the food speak for itself. In the world of art, he might be called a minimalist, but the proof of his rich talent is on the plate at Pacifics Edge.