portrait by artist Nikki McClure
biography – lisa scott owen
A child of Berkeley California’s gourmet ghetto, Lisa Scott Owen studied fine art from a very young age, spending her summers in the artist community created at the Arizona home of her grandparents John and Ruth Waddell. It was there that she was introduced to the concepts of kitchen gardens and nutritional healing by her grandmother. But, it was in Berkeley at her neighborhood restaurant Chez Panisse that the work of Alice Waters molded her perception of quality of ingredient and the experience of a fine dining environment.
Lisa began focusing on collage and photography in her early teens, her work was first published in Thrasher magazine and in her later teens she moved to Hawaii to pursue surfing. While living there, she apprenticed for portrait and fashion photographer Mary Ann Chang and began shooting with 50mm lenses, in black and white with a Nikon f3 and in color with a vintage Hasselblad. Trying modeling for a misguided moment, she had the opportunity to work with many of Hawaii’s best surf photographers most importantly Warren Bolster who became a friend and mentor.
In order to improve her work in early 20′s, she took the opportunity to apprentice for Color, Light, Composition and Art History with her grandfather John Henry Waddell, who graduated from The Art Institute of Design in Illinois (also known as The New Bauhaus), studied Art Theory with Frederick Sommer and learned darkroom skills from her photographer/film maker father, Sean Wilder Owen.
After that, Lisa moved to Rome, Italy, dreaming of studying with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro inspired by his writings about light and his work with Federico Fellini. There, she had the opportunity [due to the kindness of Saul Zaentz and Adriana Chiesa] to meet, get advice from and photograph Carlo Di Palma, but studying with Vittorio Storaro wasn’t meant to be. So she traveled to Florence and studied Italian, Art History and did apprenticeships in Architecture with Patrizia Petrogrande, Design with Simonetta Doni and Photography with Roberto Quagli. Living with Italian families while going to school, Lisa had her first life altering introduction to Italian food culture and she loved it.
Upon returning to the states, she continued her studies at The Evergreen State College receiving a B.A. in Photography and Film.
While interning with various art directors, cinematographer’s and at Panavision in Los Angeles, she got her first more serious restaurant job at The La Brea bakery and Campanile, with chefs Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel. It was a wonderful learning experience for her to watch as Nancy was designing and building the wholesale aspect of La Brea Bakery. Campanile was an exciting place for a young person were you might one day meet chef Julia Childs and the next actress Ruth Gordon. It was there that Lisa First photographed food [bread from the bakery] at Chef Nancy Silverton’s kind invitation.
After eight years of working in Italian family owned restaurants, Lisa opened her restaurant, The Mark in Olympia. An organic, classic, simple, Italian influenced restaurant with an extensive full bar. During the research process Lisa was fortunate to have made the acquaintance of wonderful Seattle chef Tom Douglass. He opened his kitchens to her at both The Palace Kitchen and his Dalia Lounge learning from his team the things they felt were important for a new restaurants survival. It was Tom’s advice that influenced Lisa to cook over a wood fire at the restaurant, advice she is very thankful for. Over the years Tom and his wife Jackie have been kind mentors supporting Lisa in the difficult journey of opening and growing The Mark an organic, local, slow food restaurant long before it became fashionable. Where she has now been owner and executive chef for over a decade.
The name “The Mark” is in remembrance of Lisa’s stepfather Mark Lissner Greenberg who passed after a long battle with cancer just a few years before the restaurant opened.
In recent years Lisa is very honored to have been invited into the kitchen of Rome’s oldest restaurant Ristorante La Campana a very traditional Roman restaurant still owned by the Trancassini family. As well as the kitchen of another classic Roman restaurant Nino by the sisters Maria Egidio and Anna Guarnacci. Learning from these families long time experience as restauranteurs and their beautiful relationship with the quality of ingredients they use, and the simple classic recipes they make it has been invaluable to helping Lisa stay determined in her path.
After more than a decade Lisa appreciates very much the long term mutually respectful relationships that have grown with a number of local farmers and ranchers. Whose hard work and dedication to sustainable agriculture assures her restaurant The Mark of a steady supply of the best quality local ingredients. She feels that doing private events with menu’s sourced almost entirely within one hour of the restaurant is some kind of joy!
Lisa makes her education an ongoing effort by continuing to consult with amazing chefs, farmers, educators, environmental activists and artists in both Italy and the US.