Chef Marc Collins’ culinary career began at the young age of 16, when he accepted a serving gig on a yacht. When it came time to choose a career path a few short years later, Marc grabbed his cooking utensils and signed up for Vocational School for Commercial Foods. “I couldn’t be a fighter pilot so I opted for chef, and the rest is history,” Marc joked.
“If you cook with love, your dishes will be so much better.” – Marc Collins
Name: Marc Collins
Location: Charleston, SC
Current Title: Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Circa 1886 & Kitchen 208
Education: Associates Degree in Culinary Arts, Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts
What challenges did you face in your journey to become a professional chef and how did you overcome them?
I had plenty of people tell me “you’re too young” or “you haven’t learned enough yet,” but I didn’t take no for an answer and kept running until I finally became a chef at the age of 23 for The Fairmount Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. I rested on my training and never lost focus, which has been the foundation to a lot in my life. Stay focused on the end result.
What brought you to Charleston?
An airplane. But seriously, I was searching for a new place to call home and became aware of a position at Circa 1886. I flew to Charleston, interviewed for the position, and cooked dinner for the owners, as well as Charleston Chef Bob Waggoner. They enjoyed their meal and offered me the position!
What inspires your cooking?
I’m inspired by the creative process itself – the ability to take ingredients and create as a painter paints. Work long enough at your trade and things just start clicking, like flavors, textures, colors, and the ability to create new things out of various items we use and touch daily to sustain life.
Name three of your favorite ingredients to use.
1. Love – and that’s something hard to teach, but if you cook with love, your dishes will be so much better.
2. Sea salt, because it elevates great flavors.
3. Fresh herbs. They add that little extra something to the dish.
What is your favorite dish to prepare?
I don’t have a favorite, but I enjoy simple foods, like fried chicken, pulled pork, and even pancakes. I do love me some pancakes!
What is your proudest achievement in your cooking career so far?
I am most proud of becoming a chef at such a young age and being presented with an award in my name at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. However, one of the most rewarding things in life is having the ability to see those that I work with now, and have worked with in the past, grow in the culinary field, and have a direct impact on that growth.
What goals have you set for 2016?
Keep the dream alive by staying creative and pushing the boundaries of my cooking. I’d like to research more historical food and continue to gain an understanding of what came before my time, and apply it to today’s cooking.
If you could tell your 21-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Keep doing what you’re doing because everything happens for a reason.
Fun facts from Marc:
Three words I’d use to describe Charleston are: Inspiring, accessible, delicious.
What I love most about Charleston is: The weather!
In my free time I enjoy: Time with my family, kayaking, and traveling.
My favorite place to dine in Charleston is: Tough question. We are blessed with such good offerings, but I do enjoy Charleston Grill and Chef Michelle Weaver’s food very much.
If I had to eat one meal for the rest of my life it would be: PB & J’s, without a doubt!
Feeling inspired? Check out more of Charleston’s celebrated cuisine and savor the flavors in #ExploreCharleston at the 2016 Charleston Wine + Food Festival!