Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Meet a five star military master chef

He arrived as a seeming contradiction.

His closely cropped crew cut, not to mention the U.S. Special Operations Command insignia he sported, clearly signaled the presence of a military man. But the insignia stood out on his bright, white chef's jacket — his name embroidered in fancy stitching.

Military mettle and culinary care in the same persona?

It didn't take long for Sgt. Rene Marquis to make me realize Army precision and cooking passion can go together. As someone once said, the Army moves on its belly.

My initial meeting with Marquis came earlier this year at the Taste of Clearwater. I served as a celebrity judge, ready to chow down. Marquis, a certified American Culinary Federation judge, made it clear the role of scoring appetizers, entrees and desserts needed to be about more than stuffing my face. His succinct explanation of the rules underscored the serious nature of the competition.

The pride Jeffrey Hiott of Rusty's Bistro displayed in winning the culinary cookoff underscored the event's significance to the chefs.

Marquis, 39, knows that sensation. He judges and competes in international competitions such as the Culinary World Cup and the Culinary Olympics, where his teams have won numerous gold medals.

"I enjoy judging," Marquis said. "It's an opportunity to give back to young professionals, older professionals and even students. It's a chance to share my experiences from competitions, nationally and internationally. I want to share."

First and foremost, however, Marquis is the enlisted aide for the U.S. Special Operations Commander at MacDill Air Force Base and a five-star military master chef: the best of the best. His duties range from cooking a meal for a small group of dignitaries to preparing a holiday feast for 300, a task he tackled this week as he crafted everything from stuffed Brie to Christmas cookies.

"We'll have something for everyone, even vegetarians," said Marquis, who spent Wednesday carving ice for the event.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Marquis approaches his 19th year in the Army. He joined after a general lured him into the service from his job at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. He holds four certifications from the culinary federation, including certified executive chef. He's also a member of the American Academy of Chefs.

The titles and training prove he's qualified, but he has a simpler measure for success.

"The last meal I prepared was lunch for 12 people, and all the plates came back empty," Marquis said. "When the plates come back empty, I've achieved my goal."

That simple core fuels his zeal for cooking. Only his love for playing hockey rivals his love for food, and it's as much about teaching others how to make a good meal as it is whipping up culinary delights. When he shares knowledge with his team on base, be it flavor profiles or techniques, he says they're kids on the playground.

A Riverview resident, he also teaches classes at the Rolling Pin in Brandon, where his Dec. 20 presentation will focus on holiday hors d'oeuvres that include petite crab Louis, blackened pork tenderloin canapes and Baja wraps.

When he completes his 20th year, Marquis will retire from the service. He's not sure what the future holds, be it a top-notch restaurant, resort, or television — he often appears on the locally broadcast Dining Out Radio with Ken Barber (his next appearance is Wednesday). No matter where he lands, I'm sure his culinary love will continue to sizzle.

Bon appetit, Rene.

That's all I'm saying.

Meet a five star military master chef 12/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 3:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Still worried about family, Tampa Bay Puerto Ricans ramp up relief effort


    TAMPA — Brenda Irizarry is worried.

    Brenda Irizarry of Tampa, while agonizing over the status of family in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, is helping lead an effort to collect and send supplies to the island. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Was it a crime? 10 patients at nursing home died after Irma


    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A 10th elderly patient has died after being kept inside a nursing home that turned into a sweatbox when Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning for three days, even though just across the street was a fully functioning and cooled hospital.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]
  3. Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us


    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on display, and it brought illness and death.

    Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman.
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Facebook to release Russia ads to Congress amid pressure

    NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook will provide the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency to congressional investigators.