Chicago native Chef Josh Marks stands tall in the culinary arts world. Being over seven feet tall, he towers over everyone in the room but it is his food that has everyone looking up these days.
If you’re a fan of the television reality show “Master Chef,” you remember Marks and his Rocky-like rise on the culinary program. He auditioned for the show in Chicago simply because he was in town for his sister’s birthday, then he got voted off in the middle of the competition. He later earned his way back on the show and then his climatic final “cook off” landed him a second place finish.
Not only was Josh praised for his ability to create masterpiece, one-of-kind dishes, but his humility and willingness to absorb comments and critiques earned him numerous praise from the judges. I caught up with Josh to find out more about him.
Chicago Defender: When did you first start cooking?
Josh Marks: I really first started really cooking in my sophomore year of college. You’re living on your own and you have to eat so that’s where it started for me.
CD: What was the first dish you prepared that let you know you had a gift for cooking?
JM: It’s not the most glamorous of dishes but it was chili. Once I was able to master some of the flavor aspects of cooking, that’s when I knew I was ready to go to the next level.
CD: What’s the one thing people don’t know about reality shows from the behind the scenes.
JM: It’s being sequestered or away from people, your family and friends for an extended period of time, in my case almost two months.
CD: What did you learn from being on “Master Chef”?
JM: I learned so much about the business of food. From working on food trucks to cooking for hundreds of people. I got a crash course in all the elements of the business. Most people would have to go years to put all that information together. I got it in a couple of months.
CD: You became the national spokesperson for Real Men Cook, a longstanding event held on Father’s Day. When did you first hear about it and how did you get involved?
JM: I attended Real Men Cook events when I was a high school student at Dunbar (Vocational High School). I was impressed with seeing men cooking and serving the community and the impact that it had. Once I had the exposure of “Master Chef “I knew my next move would be something where I could help people through food so it was a natural for me to become involved with Real Men Cook.
CD: What have you being doing since the show?
JM: I came back to Chicago to be announced as the spokesperson for Real Men Cook and prepared a meal for over 50 people at Macy’s that won praises. That was huge for me to be able to get back to Chicago and share my cooking with people there. I was also in Chicago as one of the main celebrity chefs for the “Chicago Best of Food and Wine” show.
CD: What’s next for you?
JM: I’m coming back to Chicago to meet with investors to open my cooking school, growing my commitment to Real Men Cook, and I have a line of seasonings that I am marketing. I really want to help people and change lives. Television is another avenue I want to explore more as I have seen how it reaches people.
CD: What’s the message you most want to leave people with?
JM: Everyone has a gift and talent in life. People assume because I’m seven feet tall that basketball would be mine but I found my love and passion and it’s food. Food is the one art form that can bring people together – even the most uncommon people. Everyone can enjoy a good meal and once you have people sitting down together the possibilities of bringing them together is endless.