Originally from Janesville, Wisconsin, Ben Marks is the VP of Development and Director of Food and Beverage at Blue Sky Restaurants. He has been with the company on and off for the past 10 years. Currently working in Laramie, Wyoming, Marks is also in the process of constructing, remodeling, testing and developing new restaurants while getting new businesses started.
Marks started in the restaurant industry when he was 16 years old. He fell in to the job because he was not sure what else to do at 16 years old. He did go to school to be an engineer, but when asked why he chose the restaurant industry, he responded with a chuckle, “You stick with what you’re good at sometimes.”
Of all the tasks Marks faces on a daily basis, he feels the most frustrating one is trying to find qualified, motivated staffing. He said that the decision to use Chef Placement Services has made that part of his job much easier.
While getting to know more about Marks, he said that he would enjoy traveling to Norway, the land of his ancestors. He is also very attracted high rate of living quality throughout the country. Although Norway is number one on his travel list, his favorite type of food to eat is Italian.
Chef Michael Long has been working in kitchens well before even his high school years. At 12 years old, Long started washing dishes at a family Italian restaurant. His kitchen duties grew over the years, but after high school, Long chose the traditional progression and enrolled in college. This choice, however, would soon be adjusted when Long found himself unsatisfied with what regular college had to offer, and soon after enrolled himself at the Culinary Institute of America.
Previously inspired by the likes of chefs such as Norman Van Aken, David Burke, and Thomas Keller, Long’s career in the kitchen has blossomed after culinary school as well. He is currently a Chef/Kitchen Manager for Blue Sky Restaurants.
Long’s typical workday starts at approximately 8 a.m. with admin duties. These morning duties include tasks such as cost analysis, as well as creating daily features and strategies. Although now primarily a kitchen manager, Long does not hesitate to get back in the kitchen and work as a chef as well. In the afternoons and busy nights, he steps in to help expedite the kitchen lines.
Now in the latter stages of his career, Long chose to move into the steakhouse world because he feels it is the best quality food genre in corporate dining. But when I asked Long his favorite cuisine to cook, his answer went back to his roots. “Regional authentic Italian transformed by artistic presentation,” he said. Perhaps this was somewhat related to his first job in the Italian kitchen.
When getting to know Michael Long on a personal level, one word comes to mind, “Resilient.” Long said that if he could sit down and have dinner with one person, that person would be Muhammad Ali, a long time inspiration of his. His first question to Ali would be something along the lines of, “Why did you stick with fighting for so long?” Long also mentioned that his favorite cartoon character in Wile E. Coyote, simply because he never gives up. Those are certainly traits that have been useful for Long in the kitchen as well.
Outside of the kitchen, Long enjoys playing golf and writing fiction in his spare time.
Viviana Wilches is the Director of Private Events at Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City. Originally from Columbia, she chose the restaurant industry because she has always been drawn to hospitality and serving others.
Wilches’s day starts in the morning, reviewing and writing contracts for upcoming private events at the restaurant. She keeps the servers organized and lets them know who will be working which event, as well as what the menu will include that night. She also reaches out to potential clients while handling deposits from current clients. While her main focus is on private events, Wilches will also oversee the kitchen to assure that everything is running smoothly.
While primarily focusing on the managerial side of her job, Wilches really enjoys the sales part of her job while building relationships with her clients. She believes she was taught her proficient people skills from her main influence, her mother, who worked in real estate.
Although not intentionally seeking out a chef placement firm, Wilches came across Chef Placement Services while on the search for a new job and referred to the services as, “a blessing” as it was exactly what she needed.
While getting to know Wilches personally, it was clear that travel was something she really enjoyed. She recently spent two months in India helping a friend start a hospitality consulting business, but also got to do lots of traveling outside of work. If she could go anywhere in the world next, she would go to Italy to experience the country’s food and wine first hand.