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Mark SandovalExecutive ChefHarrah College of Hospitality, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Mark Sandoval was drawn to cooking at an early age – an interest he credits to his father. He and his father, a restaurant cook, would prepare dinners for his family three to four times a week. Mark loved the reaction his culinary creations received and spent his adolescent years cooking for friends and family as often as he could. A native of Colorado Springs, Sandoval attended the University of Colorado and graduated with a degree in Studio Fine Art with an emphasis on photography and sculpture, a focus Sandoval says is important in cooking. “Food is visually appealing,” said Chef Sandoval. “It involves all of your senses. The ingredients are your canvas and the varying flavors and colors allow you to paint your picture.” Upon graduation in 1995, he moved to San Francisco to pursue his love for all things culinary, where he enrolled in the California Culinary Academy. His first restaurant position came at Moose’s, a North Beach favorite where Sandoval learned to prepare seasonal American cuisine with local, small-farm ingredients, a passion that would develop Sandoval’s cooking style. It was here Sandoval would meet one of his influential mentors, Brian Whitmer, who was executive chef at the restaurant at the time. After two and a half years at Moose’s, Sandoval left to help open Jianna Restaurant. Sandoval’s next step reunited him with his mentor, Brian Whitmer. He moved up north to work under Whitmer as sous chef and banquet chef at the award-winning restaurant, Carneros located at The Lodge at Sonoma. Here, Sandoval raised his own herbs and vegetables for the daily changing menu and eventually became executive sous chef. After three years, one of Carneros’ frequent guests, Steve Ledson, owner of Ledson wines, approached Sandoval with an opportunity to open a restaurant on the historic Sonoma plaza. Called the Harmony Club, the restaurant provided Sandoval with his first executive chef position and the chance to continue cooking with farm fresh ingredients to develop his menus. He would go weekly to the Farmer’s Market where he would find his inspiration for his food and wine paired menus. In 2005, Sandoval received exciting news - his biggest inspiration, master chef Joel Robuchon, would be opening his first restaurant in the United States, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Wanting to be a part of history and a chance to join the master chef’s team, Sandoval applied to work in Robuchon’s kitchen. He was flown to Las Vegas and given two hours to prepare four to five dishes in a kitchen he’s never seen or cooked in previously. His practice run was successful and he was hired as sous chef and saucier at Joel Robuchon at The Mansion. After one year, he transferred into the MGM Grand Culinary Department where he was able to work one on one with the resorts’ high profile clientele as he cooked for private parties and VIP guests of Skyloft. In June of 2007, he was approached by a former colleague at Joel Robuchon at The Mansion who was working for the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. Sandoval had always appreciated and followed Chef Puck’s culinary philosophy and focus on freshness and knew it would be a great fit for him. “Using only the freshest ingredients is my inspiration for creating delectable dishes,” said Chef Sandoval. “When you embrace that philosophy, you can’t go wrong.” Sandoval joined the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group in June 2007 as Executive Chef. Postrio was known for using only the freshest ingredients and producing everything in house; from pasta to sausage and pepperoni. After nearly 6 years at the helm Sandoval moved off of the strip the M Resort to oversee Anthony’s Gourmet Burgers & Brews and Marinelli’s. Marinelli’s, the Italian restaurant was converted to be the Grand Prize for Robert Irvine’s show, Restaurant Express. Sandoval helped to create and oversee Jayde Fuzion for nearly two years. While working at the M Resort, Mark began teaching at UNLV as a part time instructor in the Hospitality College. His goals shifted at that point with a new direction towards education. Sandoval said, “After 20 years in the food service industry, I really had achieved all of my culinary goals. Over the past few years, I’d been working with students at UNLVino, and I discovered that I loved teaching. When this opportunity at UNLV presented itself, it just seemed right. Of course, it helped that UNLV has the premier hospitality school in the world.” In March of 2016 Sandoval accepted the position of Executive Chef of UNLV. He is very excited to have his new home in the recently completed Hospitality Hall and enjoys creating opportunities for student to gain practical experience. He looks forward to many more great years at UNLV in the Hospitality College. In 2019 Mark was chosen to sit on the board of directors for the Nevada Restaurant Association, “I’m very honored to sit on this board with other industry collogues and friends; another opportunity to give back to my community that has given me so much.”

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