Culinary Q&A – Chef Marc Collins

Apr 16 2014

by Whitney Long

Culinary Q&A with Chef Marc Collins

Circa 1886 at Wentworth Mansion in Charleston, SC

If you have yet to dine at Circa 1886, add it to your culinary bucket list right now… seriously, y’all. Drawing inspiration from historic Southern dishes and always highlighting what is local and in season, Chef Marc Collins puts a healthful, distinctive spin on classic Lowcountry dishes. This means there is less butter and cream than typically found on Southern menus.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Chef Collins some fun foodie question but first, read about his distinguished and impressive culinary path that ultimately led him to Circa 1886…

Originally from Erie, PA, Chef Marc Collins came to the culinary world by an non-traditional path. His original love was in aviation, but less than perfect vision meant his goal of becoming a jet pilot in the Air Force was not in the cards. He turned to food at age 16 after working as a chef apprentice on the Paradise II, a private yacht with a presidential history. That led to a culinary degree from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh and a string of cooking jobs, including working at the Erie Country Club, where he served under Executive Chef David Spadafore, a Gold Medal Winner in the Culinary Olympics held in Frankfurt Germany.

In 1991, Chef Collins moved to San Antonio, where he worked at La Mansion Del Rio under French Chef Guy Collinet and later at La Louisiane, a restaurant specializing in fine French cuisine and Cajun Creole cooking. At 23, he took his first chef position at the Fairmount Hotel, an AAA Four Diamond hotel restaurant.

In 2001, Chef Collins was recruited to come to Charleston and take the helm at Circa 1886, where he has remained since, putting his signature stamp on Lowcountry cooking.

In 2005, Marc had a budding idea for a food and wine festival to be hosted in Charleston, spotlighting the amazing array of talent and ingredients we have here. Thanks to his dedication and countless hours of preliminary planning meetings, that vision became reality in 2006, when the 1st annual BB&T Charleston Wine & Food Festival launched. Today, the Festival is a prominent weekend that features over 160 chefs and authors from Charleston and across the country, and over 50 food and wine themed events. For his critical work in founding the Festival, Chef Collins is the namesake and first recipient of the 2010 Charleston Wine & Food Festival Marc Collins Chef Award.


First food memory:

Mom’s Roast Beef

Five ingredients always in your pantry:

Baked Lay’s Scoops, peanut butter, chick peas, Southern biscuit ix (makes great pancakes), coffee!!

Five ingredients always in your fridge:

Cholula hot sauce, skim milk (morning lattes are a must!) Chobani yogurt, salsa, ketchup

What are some of your go-to items you like to serve at a cocktail party? Candied bacon BLT’s, hot wings, pimento cheese

What would you want for your last meal?

Seared foie gras, Mom’s roast beef, my wife’s chili & cornbread, my Grandmother’s chocolate pie and ice cream

Dream guest list of three people for a dinner party and why?

Jesus Christ for obvious reasons, George Washington because of his vision and humble nature, my brother because we don’t get to see each other much and we would both enjoy the discussion immensely.

Career if you not a chef? Fighter Pilot

Do you have a favorite Southern dish that is always better “old school” rather than updated or “improved?”

Fried chicken and biscuits

Five Favorites –

Favorite Cocktail: Bourbon & Coke

Favorite Cookbook:

The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc

Favorite Kitchen Gadget:

VitaPrep Blender

Favorite artist/musician to listen to in the kitchen:

Frank Sinatra or George Strait

Favorite culinary destination and why?

NYC – so many choices you can’t go wrong!

If you liked this post, read about:

Chef Michelle Weaver here

Chef Shawn Kelly here

Chef Chris Stewart here

Chef Sarah O’Kelley here

Whitney Long is c0-founder of The Southern C and a Southern Living contributing editor. Through this series, she gets to meet some of the South’s finest and most creative chefs all while indulging without the calories.


Whitney Long View More Blog Posts from this Author

Whitney Long is co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit. Mama x 4, wife x 1. Entrepreneur, thinker, doer, writer, researcher, believer. Enjoys working alongside creative entrepreneurs to build community while supporting established and upcoming brands. Hobbies include travel, reading, bike rides and clever craft cocktails.

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