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Meet Marcus Flakes of Marco’s Pepper Grill

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marcus Flakes.

Marcus Flakes, aka Chef Marco, has been in the food industry for 30 years. As a veteran of the US Armed Forces, he served his country in the Navy and Army National Guard as a Culinary Specialist. In 2010, he was dubbed as a Military Chef while attending Culinary School at the Art Institutes of California- Sacramento. In his professional military career, Marcus functioned as a Food Program Manager for the Department of the Army, where he designed menus and inspected dining and field food operations for the entire state of California. He also worked as a Budget Analyst and State Resource Manager for the Air Force.

In 2012, Marcus finished college with his Bachelor of Science in Culinary Management/ Hospitality. Shortly after, he started Marco‘s Pepper Grill as one of the first culinary students of the Art Institutes to ever start a restaurant right out of culinary school. Marcus was entered into the Alumni Red Wall of Success.

Marco’s Pepper Grill (MPG) was established in 2012 in Medford, Oregon, a small town right between the cities of Ashland and Grants Pass. Upon its inception, it was mentioned that newer restaurants had to attract their guests beyond what they traditionally supported in their community. In just a short period, residents and tourists were caught by storm with multiple options. MPG introduced a fusion menu comprised of Cajun and Creole, Tex-Mex, and Cuban style foods. The question arose; How can one restaurant create the authenticity of so many cuisines?

Our story is simple, but historic to Chef Marco’s research, development, and philosophy of food and culture. The birth of the Pepper Grill began during his study of cooking styles, indigenous ingredients, and the culture of what he refers to as cuisine destinations. If we cook it, you’ve been there from a dining perspective. During culinary school, Chef Marco was asked if he had a restaurant; what would he name it, serve, and why? Marco is the Founder ‘s childhood nickname. Chef Marco enjoys seasoning and grilling food because of the flavor it brings. Peppers was the discovery as he noticed that each cuisine across the world included peppers of some sort. He selected three cuisines that would be exemplary to the traditions of growing and cooking with peppers. Chef Marco wanted to introduce familiarity but also healthy options and this required nutrition study.

Marcus prides his latest accomplishment of writing his first Chef Memoir, The Aspiring Chef and opening the company’s second location in Midtown, while his food truck remains open in Tomball.

Has it been a smooth road?
The struggles of opening and running a restaurant has been rewarding yet very challenging. It’s tough to find employees who understand your vision and are willing to put some sweat equity in the company based on their vision to grow with the company. Cash flow has always presented a challenge to small businesses like Marco’s Pepper Grill, but we continue to reinvest into the company for the purpose of reaching a larger audience. I think this is how a company grows; by using the marketplace to grow instead of relying on one community.

Recently, we’ve developed a mentor program to instill some core values to expound more on work ethics and training. In terms of capital, we have utilized investment strategies to grow as opposed to having a good day and a bad day. We now know where the good days we’re invested. That makes a huge difference when you know where your revenue is.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Marco’s Pepper Grill specializes in the use of peppers, whether it is a sauce, spice or grilled and sautéed peppers. Peppers is a world cuisine ingredient that we’ve selected to outfit our concept serving three Cuisines—Cajun & Creole, Southwest, and the Caribbean.

We are different because of our unique menu and ability to produce the presentation and taste of finer foods using premium ingredients. We are known for Taste, presentation and customer service. These components are the separators of our concept and other restaurants. Quality over and over again without fail is how a business becomes a household name.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Houston is a great marketplace! However, marketing and advertising is paramount to get in front of the desired target audience. Owners with restaurants or food trucks cannot rely on traffic counts without marketing and advertising. In this business, if you make a dollar, you invest a dollar. A business in a community requires social media exposure and digital marketing. If this isn’t an ingredient of a startup, then it could be a long haul for growth.

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