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March 13 Minor Marks

March 13, 2002|BY KEVIN CLAPP

Minor Marks is major tired.

The 25-year-old chef at Boomtown Restaurant in Martinsburg, W.Va., has just settled into a chair at an intimate, two-person table, fresh from a wild weekend of catering for several hundred people that has left the Key West, Fla., transplant drained.

Marks, who got his start working prep at a chain restaurant in Key West, moved north to be with his wife Lacretia, a student at Shepherd College.

A veteran of several dining establishments in Florida, he hasn't been to culinary school. Instead, his education has taken place in the kitchen at, among others, A&B Lobster House Restaurant and Louie's Backyard.

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"Each restaurant is different, and from each restaurant you're going to learn more. Each recipe is done different ways," says Marks, a lanky man clad in jeans, sneakers and a red chef's jacket. "Pretty much any restaurant you work at, it doesn't matter if they have the same menu, it's always different. They teach you a different way to cook."

Q: How do you set up a kitchen?

A: It depends on what specials I'm doing. It's different every day. It's whatever's easier and faster to me, because I don't want to have to walk half-way across the kitchen to grab something.

Q: How important is organization?

A: Really important. I'm a clean fanatic, and organized. Especially when you've got a lot of people, because if it ain't organized and it ain't clean, a lot of problems can happen.

Q: What kind of problems?

A: You can run into any problems. You can slip and fall if you're not organized. And if I've got food scattered everywhere, I won't know if I need to make more.

Q: How is the chef's life different here than in Key West?

A: I'm used to a real fast pace, like doing 150 covers a night. Here in Martinsburg, you don't get that busy. No restaurants get that busy.

Q: What made you want to be a chef?

A: The money did. You make good money cooking. And it's not hard. It's really easy, to tell you the truth, once you learn your temperatures and spices.

I'm a pasta man myself, that's what I like to make. That's what I'm best at.

Q: How come?

A: I like to work with wines, garlic, shallots, seafood. You can pretty much cook any foods with wine, garlic and shallots, but pasta's always best in my opinion.

Q: What's your favorite pasta dish?

A: Probably shrimp scampi.

Q: How come?

A: It's easy, and it's got a lot of flavor in it.

Q: What gives it its flavor?

A: It's the wine, the shallots, the garlic. When it comes together, it's just the combination of them.

Q: You mentioned seafood earlier. How different is it preparing seafood here as opposed to Florida?

A: Way different. Down there you have so many seafood choices, and it's fresh daily. Here you have to order it and it's all frozen. ... There's no ocean around here.

Q: Does that make a difference?

A: Yes, definitely. If it's fresh there's a lot more flavor to it, like it just came out of the ocean. Here's it's all packed in ice. It wasn't caught yesterday.

Q: How then do you bring the flavor out?

A: Mostly burgundy wine or white wine. The wine will bring out the flavor in the seafood.

Q: Do you improvise in the kitchen?

A: Yes, practically every day ... because I can make new dishes, see how they taste. Even when I'm at home I play around.

Q: Does it make you a better chef?

A: Yes, because if you ain't got something one day you can experiment with things, use a different method. ...

It comes to me when I'm cooking because I need to think fast.

Lemon Pepper Salmon

Salmon filet

1/8 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

Lemon wedge, to garnish

For coating:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

black pepper

white pepper

crushed green pepper

lemon rind

In a saut pan, combine olive oil and white wine and cook over medium heat to reduce. Meanwhile, mix lemon juice, pepper and lemon rind, using enough pepper to coat salmon. Cover salmon with mixture. Add coated salmon to pan and cook over medium heat, adding two splashes of white wine to pan.

Serve on a bed of couscous with lemon wedge to garnish.

Source: Boomtown Restaurant

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