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Illustrated Interview with Mark Berry

Mark Berry is one of the nicest, friendliest people I have ever met and treats all the patrons of The Michoacán Gourmet Restaurant as though they’re family.

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He knows most people’s name and talks about their families and their friends and has an excellent memory for details. His heart is in Michoacán and all that accompanies the day to day workings of running one of the top ten best Mexican restaurants in Nevada.

Paulette Motzko:
Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant is very special place for you. What makes it so special and what was the reason that you opened the Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant?

Mark Berry:
“In 2007 I was retired. I had a real estate appraisal company here in Las Vegas for 22 years.”

“My oldest son enrolled in culinary school in 2007 so I went with him on his orientation. I’ve always loved to cook and I fell in love with the idea of attending the same school, not with a plan to open a restaurant, but to just learn more about cooking. After enrolling myself I started to dream of owning my own restaurant and in 2008 The Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant was born. I went to my friend Javier Barajas, the owner of Lindo Michoacán Restaurant to get his advice.”

“Due to the high failure rate of startup restaurants, his advice was that we open a restaurant together.”

“In 2009 we opened Lindo Michoacán Centennial. We opened it with the agreement that if, after 3 years I liked the business I would buy him out, and if I didn’t like the business he would buy me out.”

“In 2012 we bought out Javier and we dropped the Lindo part and it became “Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant.”

“In preparation for the construction of the restaurant Javier and I went to Michoacán, Mexico on buying trips to buy all of the decorations and everything you see in the restaurant. The restaurant was designed around the decorations that we purchased in Mexico.”

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Paulette Motzko:
You have such a passion for this wonderful restaurant.

You are a visionary and built this fantastic place around artifacts straight from Michoacán, Mexico.

Paulette Motzko:
I’m impressed with how passionate you are about this fantastic, very special place, and how kind you are to all the people that walk through the front doors.
What’s one of the most rewarding things that you do in the course of the day as the owner and Executive Chef of The Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant?
Mark Berry:

“Team building is really important. It is really important in running a successful restaurant. We have 48 team members here at Michoacán, and it’s really important to me to see everybody’s progress.”

Mark Berry:
“What’s the most rewarding, is when I have customers continually pull me over to their table and tell me what great service they are getting, and how happy all the employees are.”

Mark Berry:
“My customers are so amazed that a little neighborhood Mexican restaurant has better service then some of the top restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s all because we all are like a family here and everybody is happy.”

Mark Berry:
“Nearly 40% of our team members started with us 7 years ago. That gives me such satisfaction to know. The people here are the greatest value of the restaurant and the team that we have here.”

Paulette Motzko:
Its extraordinary that you brought back all of the artifacts and paintings and other beautiful pieces from Michoacán, Mexico and that you built the restaurant around them all. That in itself is worth coming to see. The food is fabulous and there is such an attention to detail and authenticity in your ingredient choices and preparation methods.

In regards to the artifacts you brought from Michoacán, is there anything in particular that is your favorite souvenir from Michoacán?

Mark Berry:
“By far my favorite pieces are the paintings in the restaurant done by the artist D.A. Silva. He was born and raised in Argentina and he does beautiful portrait artwork of individuals from Mexico.”

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Those are Mark Berry’s personal favorite paintings painted by D.A. Silva. Funny thing, they attracted my eye when I walked in the restaurant.

Paulette Motzko:
What are some of the menu items here that reflect the small towns in Michoacán that you love the most?

Mark Berry:
“There are so many wonderful menu items at Michoacán, but Michoacán is known for their Pork Carnitas.”

“Our Carnitas recipe comes from a little town called Tacambaro in Michoacan, and it’s the most authentic Pork Carnitas you can eat.”

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“We slowly braise the pork in its own juices with many proprietary ingredients, for over 6 hours in order to get the pork to fork tender.”

“So, Michoacán is known for its Carnitas in Mexico and we’re known for our Carnitas here in Las Vegas.”

Paulette Motzko:
How many Chefs are there at The Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant?

Mark Berry:
“In any smoothly-run restaurant, there is only one Chef. We have an Executive Chef, a Sous Chef, and then there’s a very special person known as the Saucier. And last but not least are our Line Cooks, Prep Cooks, and Tortilla Cooks (we make our tortillas fresh daily). I am currently the Executive Chef.”

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SOCORRO makes the best, lightest, tastiest flour tortillas every day with that same beautiful smile you see here.

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Vidal who is as kind as he is hard working. He’s been with The Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant ever since it began.

Mark Berry:
“I believe the most important position in the kitchen is the Saucier. Armando has been with us since we opened the restaurant, and he’s our Saucier.

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Jose was so kind to me when I was trying to stay out of all the cook’s ways while they made magic happen on the plates I was photographing.

“The sauce recipes that we have were handed down from Javier’s family from generations in Michoacán, Mexico and I am forever grateful to him for that.

So, it’s very important that we stay true to those recipes and we don’t deviate from them. We don’t alter them as Armando has strict recipes to follow to compliment those 14 basic sauces that we make. That’s why every dish you order in a lot of Mexican Restaurants taste the same.
You won’t find that ever happening at our restaurant.

Every sauce has a distinct taste, so that’s what makes Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant very special, and of course the talented cooks creating some of the many mouth watering specialties at The Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant.”

Paulette Motzko:
How did you select the Cooks that make the extraordinary dishes regional to the small towns of Michoacán?

Mark Berry:
In answering your question on – how did I select the chefs that make our recipes so they stay true and authentic to the dishes….”

“You know what it really comes down to- Is the cook able to be a part of a team.
Six of our Cooks have been with us since we opened the restaurant.”

“When we are looking for a new Cook, a new team member on the cooks line, it’s very important that the person can be a part of a team. What they call a team in called in culinary school is called The Brigade.

“You start with the executive chef and the sous chef and then the saucier, and all the line cooks.”

“Everybody works like an orchestra and when you watch our cooks at night during a very busy service , and you see these 8 talented cooks on the line it really is an amazing thing to watch. Everybody has their own position and the dishes come out perfectly.

These men and women are just amazing and are real warriors in the kitchen!”

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Fidel seen smiling, as he usually is, does a million and one important tasks to keep The Michoacán Gourmet Mexican Restaurant running. He is a wonderful man.

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Jose preparing table-side made the way you like it guacamole for an eager couple.

On a weekend the talented doing their magic in the kitchen so each dish is a delight for your taste buds!

Paulette Motzko:
The arms of the cooks and chefs move at lightning speed but incredibly everyone in the kitchen always maintains a calm demeanor.

I know, because I watched them prepare dishes as I stayed out of everyone’s way shooting photos!

Paulette Motzko:
Are there any other influences that helped you design your restaurant?

Mark Berry:
“Yes-When I was attending culinary school I was introduced to a book called “Setting the Table” written by Danny Meyer.
Danny Meyer owns many top restaurants in New York City and around the country”

“The basic premise of his book was teaching you how to set the table in your restaurant, and the things that you need to be constantly thinking of in a restaurant. The most important is what your customers are really looking for.”

Mark Berry aims to give his customers an experience and not simply food on a plate!

Mark Berry:
“Our customers are coming for an experience. They’re obviously hungry, but really what they’re coming for is an experience. They’re wanting to have all of their senses pleased.

I love when you walk in and your view of the restaurant is beautiful with all the decorations, then you smell the food being cooked, and what you hear is beautiful music, and what you taste is delicious.”
“If we don’t hit all five senses and satisfy all five senses, the customer will walk away from the restaurant subconsciously not being satisfied.”

Paulette Motzko:
I know that you do catering. Can you tell me more about what your catering services are?

Mark Berry:
“Yes we do catering and we’ve been working for several years on developing our catering business to deliver the same tasty Mexican food just like you get in the restaurant.
We have catered from 900 people or for as little as 10 people for a private party in their home. So we do either small events or large.
I am very proud of being selected to cater at the Latin Grammy Awards for the workers with Univision this past year, which was a huge scheduling obstacle- feeding over 800 people in a very short time-frame, but our team pulled it off without a problem.

You can pick up your food here for a small catering event, or for a large catering event, we do full service. We deliver the food, the chaffing dishes, the servers, and do complete catering events.”

Paulette Motzko:
In the ten years that I’ve been doing feature stories, interviews and shooting photos for extraordinary restaurants owners, you’re the most hands-on, passionate, and enthusiastic restaurant owner and Executive Chef that I’ve ever met.

Typically restaurant owners simply delegate things that you gladly embrace so that you can make sure it gets done the way you like. That’s very commendable.

Paulette Motzko:
How did you become such a shrewd businessman?

Mark Berry:
Passion are the keys to success.
Starting out, I’m glad you think I’m a smart business man.
I think what really comes off is my passion.”

“I think anybody in business who is passionate about it, will be smart. If you’re not passionate, you really won’t care. It all boils down to passion.”

“I have a HUGE PASSION FOR MY restaurant, but I’m 60 years old. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life.”

“I haven’t worked for anybody in nearly 40 years being a self-employed entrepreneur. Over those 40 years I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

One thing, I always make the right decision to learn based on the mistakes I have made.”

I hope you enjoyed reading this Illustrated Interview with Executive Chef and Restaurateur, Mark Berry as much as I enjoyed spending time with him and creating it.

Interviewer: Paulette Motzko
Transcripts: Mark Berry & Paulette Motzko

All images photographed in high definition digital graphic arts by Paulette L. Motzko, PLM Studios, Las Vegas, NV
You can reach Paulette Motzko at PLM Studios at

TotallyInspiredPC@gmail.com

You can reach Mark Berry at
Mark@MichoacanLV.com

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