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Under the Toque

Mike Marques

Ruth's Chris Steak House

A promise from his grandmother gave Mike Marques the motivation to begin his 16-year career as a chef. "She told me, at age 12, that if I became a chef, she'd give me all of her recipes," says Marques. The proprietor of two restaurants in Providence, R.I., Marques' grandmother's treasure of recipes seemed endless. To the young Marques, it seemed like a good deal to make. So, at age 12, he set out to set the culinary world on fire.

Marques enrolled in Johnson & Wales University upon high school graduation. There, he earned a bachelor's degree in food service management and an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts. Though the Bobby Flays and Paula Deans of the culinary world show the glitz and glamour of being a chef, it's those who are willing to learn the business end of managing a kitchen who will do well, says Marques. "I'm more than glad that I got a business degree along with my culinary degree. To be able to manage a kitchen is just as important as knowing how to cook," says Marques.

As executive chef of Ruth's Chris Steak House in Myrtle Beach, Marques puts his business mind to work as well as his culinary skills. He arrived at Ruth's Chris after having worked in the kitchens of several popular eateries along the Grand Strand and high-end restaurants along the Eastern seaboard. But, it was a newspaper ad that sparked his interest in Ruth's Chris. He underwent an extensive interview, in-depth testing and a seven-week training program to successfully earn the executive chef's position at Ruth's Chris.

"The company has the same core values that I adhere to as a chef. The same commitment to freshness and quality food is what I believe in," says Marques. It's been one year since Marques joined Ruth's Chris, but he says it feels like only six months ago. Time flies when you're having fun. Other than cooking and managing a kitchen, Marques enjoys being a husband and father of two girls ages two and four.

Bryan Woodruff

SeaBlue

It's the wow factor that gives Bryan Woodruff his zeal for cooking. "I like making new and innovative dishes," says Woodruff, a 10-year veteran chef. "Creating something that pleases people is what I love to do."

Woodruff's love for cooking landed him a job at Cahills restuarant in Virginia. "I used to cook at Cahills and make stuff for the servers. They'd like they way I'd put things together and tell me I should be a chef," says Woodruff. "Eventually, it sunk in and I went to school."

Armed with a genuine love for pleasing people and a natural knack for cooking, Woodruff headed to the hallowed steps of Johnson & Wales University. He combined his formal training with hands-on experience at a number of first-class establishments. Eventually, Woodruff honed his culinary skills to an executive level.

As executive chef at SeaBlue, Woodruff oversees a sophisticated menu and a very capable staff. Perennial favorites such as Kobe and dry-aged steaks have Woodruff's signature touch. At SeaBlue, "we pride ourselves on serving the best steaks available," says Woodruff.

Most of the time, his workday ends 12 hours after he started it, he says. Going home is a welcomed amenity in Woodruff's life especially since he goes home to a wife and a newborn baby girl. "My daughter is two months old. She's a real joy. Relaxing and spending time with her and my wife is how I like to unwind."

Long walks on the beach and, believe it or not, cooking eases Woodruff's tensions. "I really like cooking. Most of the time, I'm cooking at home, too."

For Woodruff, it's not a job, it's a passion. If you want to be a chef to become a star, you're doing it for the wrong reasons. You have to do it from the heart, like Woodruff.

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