When thirteen-year-old Will Marks began cooking at a supper club in La Crosse, he found that he could hold his own with experienced kitchen workers, and he liked the job. The summer after his junior year, inspired by reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, he and a friend traveled to Paris and then biked into Switzerland, eating baguettes and drinking wine. And before the end of his senior year he knew that he wanted to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to be trained as a professional chef.
But financial considerations led him to a second choice, Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa where he earned a Diplome de Cuisine that took him to internships and work as a chef in restaurants in Ottawa, Cape Cod, Minneapolis, and finally Vail, where he met and married Loreto. Born in Santiago, Chile, she was a graduate of the INACAP Culinary Institute.
After the couple moved to Door County, the former Common House Restaurant space became available and Restaurant Saveur was born.
“We decided to name our first venture after the necessary ability to savor life,” William Marks said. “We are hyper, hyper passionate people and feel mediocrity immediately.” Food “needs to explode with flavor. We have to believe it and feel it, and it must manifest itself in the dining.”
The historic Baileys Harbor building that is home to the restaurant dates from the mid-nineteenth century and began life as a general store. The Marks launched their business with a limited budget, making “a raw intuitive decision to offer quality” but with no venture capital. Loreto serves as maitre d hotel and William, as chef.
The restaurant has an eclectic décor with rustic and historic touches and offers intimate dining spaces, including bay window seating and a library for private parties. Paintings by artist Susan Daniels add to the ambience of her son’s restaurant, as if offering a mother’s approval.
“Our cuisine draws from flavors around the world with a strong Latin influence and a foundation based on classic French technique,” Marks said.
While Marks brings with him culinary training from Le Cordon Bleu, his Chilean wife Loreto contributes the Latin influence. He feels a Latin cultural infusion in this country, especially on the coasts and in south Florida, has also been a factor in the development of entrées in Restaurant Saveur.
From a personal perspective, Marks has a “love for big, simple, fresh flavors often found in Latin countries,” a fondness that he indulges by traveling during the offseason.
The menu reflects his delight in this culinary tradition. Consider this first course: Crisp empanadas of ground veal, curried squash, and montrachet cheese with salsa fresca. Or this second course: Chilean salad of white asparagus, hearts of palm, tomato, onion, avocado, cilantro, and citrus vinaigrette. Or this third course: South American-style churrasco of skewered lamb, beef, chorizo, poblano, and onion with roasted fingerling potatoes and spiced lamb jus.
The goal of William and Loreto Marks is to create entrees for people with discerning palates, “taking a different approach by ingredient profiling, building an entrée, conceptualizing” and ultimately “separating ourselves from everyone else, offering something different and off-center, something very original.” They want people to be intrigued by the fact that the menu will always be changing.
Marks is pleased to be located in Baileys Harbor, “my mecca for the county,” with its central location and its relatively quiet and noncommercial environment. He also enjoys the harbor that he finds perfect for kiteboarding.
And he is fond of the historic building that for three years now has served as his restaurant and looks forward to enhancing and protecting its heritage.