For more than 30 years, chef Marvin Woods has enjoyed a culinary journey that has taken him around the world, on TV and into bookstores as a published author. He is a mentor as well as a trailblazer in the country’s fight against obesity, especially among children. Some may say he is one of our unsung celebrity chefs, but indeed to those who know him and have followed his work and career over the years, know that he has earned his stripes and place in shaping America’s culinary revolution.
“My dad took me into the kitchen when I was seven and we made scrambled eggs and I thought that was fun and exciting. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was getting the Betty Crocker recipe cards sent to the house every two weeks. I still have those cards,” shares Woods as he recalls the moment that started it all. Born and raised in New Jersey, that morning would create a spark that would continue to grow as Woods got older.
Eventually scrambled eggs turned to pizzas and other delectables made from scratch (including cheesecakes) as he took over the cooking duties on the weekends, including Sunday dinners. “My mom had a career and I have three sisters. Anything instant, anything that can help her get in the kitchen, out the kitchen quicker, she signed up for,” says Woods. This simply opened the door for him to hone his skills which would take him to culinary school following high school graduation. “One reason why culinary art really resonates with me is because of the art piece. I am an artist. I am a creative being.”
Following culinary school, Woods went full throttle in New York working for some of the top restaurants in the state including The Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, Helmsley Palace (now the New York Palace) and the former Windows of the World.
Growing up he was encouraged by this dad to join the military as a ticket to see the world, but Woods would use the universal language of food to make his way over to Europe where he would live for four years, first in Ireland and then in the U.K. “One of the things my dad always told me is that when you get old enough, you need to leave this country and go experience life,” says Woods. While working in Dublin and eventually London, he also traveled throughout Europe and earned his first executive chef title at the age of 29 before returning to the states.
Of course every journey is not without challenges and adversities which is what Woods would later experience as his career started to take off even more at Café Beulah back in New York. His contribution to the restaurant’s winning low-country menu not only put the restaurant on the map, but Woods as well. Soon the Food Network (then in its infancy years) would come calling and feature him four times on “Ready, Set, Cook,” and also on “Chef du Jour.” A chance meeting led to his first cookbook, “The New Low-Country Cooking,” but also caused him to sever ties with the restaurant.
Moving on to the next chapter of his life, he took an offer and landed in Miami where he would work in some of the city’s top establishments and even open one of his own that was named M. Woods which closed after three years.
TV opportunities came back around again and this time Woods had his own show, “Home Plate,” out of Atlanta on Ted Turner’s network, Turner South. Watched in 7 million households a week for four seasons, the show focused on taking Southern recipes and preparing them differently, often healthier.
Woods is part owner and executive chef of FunXion, which offers popular American dishes with a “healthy twist,” including bison burgers, buffalo-chicken pizza and smoked-chicken wraps. Woods has led the kitchens at Milestone Hotel in London, Savannah Restaurant and the National Hotel, Hollywood Prime at the Westin Diplomat and M. Woods in Miami. Woods was the first chef to help kick off Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. He also has Oprah’s stamp of approval.”
For Woods, it is all about passion, experience and most importantly timing. When it does opens, it will be right for sure this time.
***Information courtesy of http://www.cuisinenoirmag.com/***