Joshua Marks, 25, is a self-taught culinary artist who, upon deciding to perfect his passion for food, studied recipes, watched You Tube videos and absorbed the techniques of his idols, such as Chefs Graham Elliot, Emeril Lagasse and Gordon Ramsay, as well as restaurateur Joe Bastianich, by watching them on cooking shows. Today, Marks has not only turned his attention full-time to cooking, he beat out more than 30,000 contestants, some of them highly trained, to land a slot on this season’s “MasterChef,” Fox TV’s fierce cook-off competition.
Although he has never taken a cooking class, Marks grew up in the kitchens of family members who exposed him early on to a range of culinary styles that influence his cooking today. His Panamanian father, introduced Marks to the wonders of curry and coconut—ingredients that are trademarks of Marks’ cuisine. Marks’ mother uses healthy, organic ingredients in her dishes and has taught her son to use healthier alternatives when preparing traditional dishes. From his grandmother, Marks gained an appreciation for what he calls “homestyle” cooking, which for her means Southern comfort food, while an aunt who knows her way around the kitchen, provided the budding chef knowledge of Creole and Cajun cooking. Marks, who prides himself on adeptly manipulating spices and flavors, has carved out his list of specialties, which includes étouffée,
all types of curry, and ice creams
A native Chicagoan and a product of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School on the city’s South Side, Marks is a 7-footer who played basketball and excelled academically at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, where he earned an economics degree cum laude in 2009. As one of the tallest centers in the school’s history, Marks helped Tougaloo win its first conference championship in 2007. If his passion for cooking had not taken hold, Marks probably would have pursued a professional basketball career. Instead, he spends most of his time preparing succulent dishes for friends and family at his home in Jackson and sharing recipes on his blog and Facebook page.
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