Chef Files: Mark Shafer, Sandbars Raw Bar & Grill

By on April 2, 2019

Mark Shafer

Present Gig: Chef/Owner, Sandbars Raw Bar & Grill
Age: 45
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Years in OBX: 8
Training: Studied to be a teacher, ended up in a restaurant
Style or Specialty: Seafood

What was your path like becoming a chef?
I started washing dishes at 15 just to make some money to get a car and take out girls. Then I was working at Chili’s while going to school to be a teacher. That really taught me the back end of the restaurant business: the paperwork, food costs, labor cost, all the numbers. I was good at it.

Any defining moments?
Chili’s offered me a kitchen manager job, but I told them I wanted an honorable job as a teacher. But the salary was much higher than I would make as a teacher. And I liked the kitchen.

Why OBX?
My grandfather started coming here in the ’40s, my Dad in the 50’s-60’s, and me since the ’70s. So I’ve been vacationing here all my life — down in Hatteras. In Knoxville at a street party I was throwing, I told the girl I was seeing about the place I vacationed as a kid.

We came down for a week, and she fell in love with it. A couple of weeks later, she said let’s move there. We moved here the week of Hurricane Irene. On the drive here, I was thinking I made a huge mistake — looked like a bomb hit the place. But we rented a place sight unseen on the Beach Road, she got a job teaching, and I started working at The Dunes in Nags Head.

Where after Then Dunes?
Hurricanes Mo’s, Awful Arthur’s, then Roosters. Also subbed teaching in the offseasons.

And the girl?
Michelle and I married three years later.

And how did Sandbars come about?
The opportunity came along, and it was perfect. I mean, I managed 200-seat restaurants, but for my own first place, this was a good size and didn’t need a lot a capital to make it happen.

Bought it in May 2017. Wasn’t planning on expanding, but I wanted a liquor license, so we expand next door in October of the same year to get the minimum 36 seats and the second bathroom (per ABC requirements for liquor).

As much as I love cooking and being in the kitchen, liquor helps pay the bills.

Why a raw bar?
When I was a sous chef in Knoxville, we had a raw bar. Knoxville has thousands of restaurants — a real good food town. And I’ve always loved seafood.

When you go out to eat, where can we likely find you?
I don’t go out to eat much, but I do like to go to raw bars. I often just have a dozen oysters here when I get off. I love oysters.

Nope, just raw, no sauce, no crackers. Just oysters.

Favorite drink to go with it?

What seasoning/spice/technique is top in your culinary arsenal?
I love saute. I worked in lots of Italian and Greek places, and always loved the saute station, love pasta, piccata. If I was on death row, last meal would be veal piccata — either that or Triscuits and Jalapeno Jack cheese.

I worked for a Greek chef years ago who would be drinking red wine at the expo station. I would have 12 burners going with five more things to put on right away. There would be times I would just want to cry and say enough, especially when he would throw something back at me and say it’s not good enough, make it again. Decades later, it still stays with me, that everything has to be as it should be — perfect.

On the rare occasion you’re not working, where can we find you?
I love to fish.

Sound, ocean, it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t even matter if I catch anything You know, when we work so much, especially the chasm between owning a restaurant, and just working in one, sometimes you just need some time away.

Two hours fishing, or just catching up on reading Bon Appetit on the porch, we need that time to rejuvenate. If you work too much, you can lose that creativity. It shouldn’t be a grind. So I need to step away, my wife notices when I need to also, just step away so I can recharge and continue to be able to create the great specials that people come in for.

What’s something about you that would surprise people?
People might be surprised that I’m an accomplished photographer and writer. I’ve written a novel and a screenplay — still waiting to submit. But I’ve won some writing and photo awards.

Done a lot of weddings here. All the prints in the restaurant are mine. In my younger days I was a voracious reader — I read everything — went through my Russian author phase, South American phase, and of course, I love Hemingway — For Whom The Bell Tolls, the best book I’ve ever read. I love the picture he paints on the page.

Dare County Animal Shelter

Sealed bids for completion of the Dare County Animal Shelter will be received on February 11, 2020, in the Dare County Administration Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo, NC, for 01-Fencing, 03- Concrete, 04-Masonry, 05-Metals/ Steel, 06-Casework, 07-Roofing, 07-Caulking, 08-Glass and Glazing, 08-Doors, Frames and Hardware, 08-Overhead Doors, 09-Drywall, 09-Flooring, 09-Painting, 10- Specialties, 12-Furnishings, 21-Fire Protection, 23-Mechanical & Plumbing, 26-Electrical, 31-Sitework and 32-Landscaping.

This project will be bid and awarded in accordance with North Carolina law. Sealed proposals from Contractors will be received until 1:00 p.m. All bidders must submit for prequalification by 2:00pm on 2/3/2020. Bids submitted by non-prequalified bidders will not be considered. All bids will be opened and read aloud starting at 2:00 p.m. of the bid day. Bids must be delivered in person and on the supplied Bid Form and include a bid deposit worth 5% of the total bid value. Electronic and faxed bids will NOT be accepted or reviewed. All times are local prevailing times.

Information requests concerning the project shall be submitted in writing to: Alex Palagyi of The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company via email (

Bidding material, prequalification material, and complete plans and specifications may be obtained from the Whiting-Turner Building Connected site and will be available until the bid due date. All subcontractors are responsible for emailing Alex Palagyi ( for access to the Building Connected site.

The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and Dare County reserve the right to reject any and all bids, waive informalities and irregularities in bidding, and to accept bids which are considered to be in the best interest of the County. The Whiting Turner Contracting Company and Dare County also reserve the right to require any bidder to submit information needed to determine if said bidder is responsible within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. 143-129.

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