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Chef James Mark, the celebrated owner of North and Big King, on why he’s hanging up his apron — for now

On the Rhode Island Report podcast, Mark explains what made him decide to take a break, the pressures leaders of the restaurant industry face, and what’s next for him.

Chef James Mark poses for a portrait inside Big King in Providence, R.I.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — It’s been three months since James Mark, the celebrated chef and owner of two of the most iconic restaurants in Providence, announced he was hanging up his apron and closing for good.

North Restaurant and Big King, two eateries that were known to be unapologetic for their plates and the crew running the show, closed over July 4 weekend.

Seen here are the lobster rolls with tomato, egg, crispy potatoes, holy basil, and fine herbs.Gretchen Ertl

On the latest episode of the Rhode Island Report podcast, Mark reflects on the last decade of running the two restaurants, why he decided to close, how he got his start in the industry under David Chang and his Momofuku empire, the pressures that owners face in Rhode Island, and what’s next for him.


Mark opened North a decade ago with just $35,000. He spent just about all of it on key money before purchasing a crate of lobsters to serve lobster rolls, shucked oysters, some ham, and sell leftover alcohol. That lasted for the first two weeks, making just enough to afford the first wine order.

Since then, both restaurants have been celebrated by food journalists around the world, award-winning chefs, and locals alike.

“We tried to do things our way. We tried not to compromise... We had success and we had lots of failures. And I think we tried to stay honest about those things. And I think that honesty is the thing that resonated with people,” Mark said on the podcast. “We didn’t try to gloss over when we had troubles... We didn’t try to gloss over anything.”

Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.