Chef, restaurateur, and community leader, Mark Estee has left a tasty mark on northern Nevada’s dining experience for more than 20 years. His company Reno Local Food Group has five restaurant brands and multiple locations around the Reno-Carson City area.

Photo by Emily Tidwell

NM&VG: How has Reno’s dining scene changed over the years?    

ME: Back in 2010, when I opened Campo, there were a small handful of restaurants that were delivering on the level we were. Today, we have so many great types of cuisines and restaurants. Even things like Food Truck Friday brought great diversity and culture. 

Now it’s even stronger in the last 3-4 years. Reno Public Market, Gordon Ramsay has a restaurant at Lake Tahoe, Charlie Palmer is still going strong…Reno’s just getting better and better. 

NM&VG: What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

ME: We make homemade pasta for the kids, just simple Tagliatelle. The kids each like different sauces so we have a pasta bar-type meal. 

NM&VG: You’ve had growing pains, but you stuck it out. Why? 

ME: I always joke about this and say I’m too stupid to know the difference. If I really listened and paid attention, I would have tucked tail and run away a long time ago. But I always felt if I had a good culture, put people first, and kept going, it would work out. I’m not a collaborator at heart, but today, people who used to work for me are my partners, and they make the company better. I’ve been willing to go with the changes, take feedback, and learn. I just doubled down. I’ll outwork anything bad that’s happened to me. 

NM&VG: If someone had time for just one meal in the area, where would you tell them to go? 

ME: Liberty Food & Wine Exchange would be the spot, for sure. It’s the most creative and elevated of all our restaurants. There are always new menu items, and we are pushing boundaries and testing things. It’s a place to find something unique, chef-inspired, local, and you might catch me there cooking. Plus, it always smells good in there. 

NM&VG: What’s on the horizon for Reno Local Food Group? 

ME: We’re always looking at new projects. We just opened a restaurant in Midtown, we’re building a new tap room, and we’ll open a new Great Basin Brewpub in Minden soon. 

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