I’m Mark, I’m from Canada—Vancouver. I don’t say “eh” because I left Canada about twenty-two years ago. But I’m going to Vancouver in a week for my dad’s 85th birthday, so if you talk to me in two weeks I’ll probably be doing it.
I left Canada with KPMG, an accounting and consulting company. They sent me to Russia after the wall came down. After two years, I decided not to go back. I moved to Germany for a job at Adidas, went from Germany to England to California then into Asia: Malaysia, Korea, and finally China. When I came to China I was the Managing Director of TaylorMade Adidas Golf, based in Shanghai.
I came to China just to set up the business here, and I had been with Adidas for 12 years, but after those first two years I decided to stay in China. It wasn’t a woman; I think it was just that point in time where China felt like the last frontier, around 2008. I got a job with ASC, the wine company, which was my segue into F&B, and the source of my contacts that led me into what I do now. China was the place to be in 2010, and it still feels that way today.
I don’t always love living here but I’ll stay as long as I’m loving it and going in a positive direction. My dream was always to retire in Vancouver at some point, and even before I was in F&B my dream was to have my own little spot where (I know it sounds corny) but I would catch a fish and that would be my special for the day in my little six-person restaurant.
For twenty-five years I’d been a corporate guy, and maybe I was a little frustrated in my job at that specific time but when the opportunity came up with Muse Group I took it. I became a partner and a shareholder, although I don’t think anyone expected to have success in 2014 from a vodka bar of that size, opening on The Bund with no bund view, and I had no reputation. The Nest
would be different: our food was Northern European, our music was a little indie — I simply created a place I would like to hang out at instead of trying to make something for the rich, Chinese, or the middle-class Chinese or the laowai. I like good drinks, I like good food, I like fair prices, I like good music, I like to sit in a comfortable chair and like to have a nice environment around me. It felt very intuitive.
In July 2016, the people involved in the development of Yuyuan Lu approached us to open there. At that point we were in this Bacardi partnership and they didn’t want to open up another Nest in Shanghai, so it wasn’t going to be that. I had been coming to Yuyuan Lu for a couple months but was reluctant. Eventually I fell in love with the grass out front and the windows and got pulled into developing a new concept here.
I knew it had to be more of a destination. The Cannery
is actually a little homage to my hometown; it’s a West Coast place. When I would help my dad cook after we had cleaned up, he would open up a can of oysters or something like that and we’d sit and talk and it was this warm father-son time. And that was something I wanted to bring here, and “the canned” section (we do our own canning here) on the menu became the namesake of the place.
At The Nest everything had to revolve around Grey Goose. With The Cannery, I resisted having any kind of brand or corporate sponsorship. I wanted to be the house of artisans: craft beer, natural wines, off the big-brand track.
I don’t want to sound customer-unfriendly, but I do get kind of annoyed with—and maybe it’s the same with every city in the world—but there’s this kind of sense of entitlement that so many customers have. In Shanghai everyone’s
a VIP. I’m old and leathered, but when I see people treating my staff like servants, that really gets to me. I also work pretty hard to keep our concepts unique and I think in Shanghai there are a lot of people with a lot of money, but maybe not a lot of ideas. So they see something works, they replicate it, and those places open and six months later they close.
If I have a night off I like to go to Franck
, the reborn Franck. When you go into Ferguson Lane, it’s like going into a little village in France. Plus the quality of food and the natural wine list. For new restaurants, the place that stood out to me the most was Oxalis
. I think it’s super cool. I also like to go to little lounges. I still love Constellation 1
. They’re not trendy, they focus on good quality and have stood the test of time. I also love Homeslice
and I hate Nat because he makes incredible pizza and it’s made me fat.
In the next year, I may go from having two places to having six. But for sure, I’ll at least have one more, in Xintiandi Plaza
. It was going to be a little sub-brand of the Nest, but it’s not anymore. It will be a Northern European inspired bistro and bakery, and on the rooftop there will be a cocktail bar. I’m thinking right now that it will be called Rye & Co. But I reserve the right to change the name. I still haven’t decided!