ACA Alumni Profiles

Chef Marvin Woods

Photograph of Marvin Woods Courtesy of Mark Hill © 2006 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved

Alumnus: Marvin Woods
Class of: 1985
Studied: Culinary Arts

Chef Marvin Woods is a celebrity chef known for his charismatic personality, signature bandana and mission to help children and families live better through food. Chef Woods is an accomplished cookbook author, Emmy Award-nominated television host and healthy cooking advocate.

In his two cookbooks, "The New Low-Country" and "Home Plate Cooking," Chef Woods celebrates Low-Country cuisine and healthy Southern cooking. The Low-Country of South Carolina is an 80-square-mile area surrounding Charleston and Savannah. Low-Country cuisine is inspired by African, French, Spanish and Caribbean flavors.

From 2002-2006, Chef Woods hosted more than 200 episodes of the popular cooking show, "Home Plate" on Turner South broadcasting. Inspired by summers spent with his family in the South, the show highlighted his talent for preparing Southern food, with a lighter twist.

Woods began traveling across the United States in 2006, educating children about food and better living through the national wellness program, Droppin' Knowledge with Chef Marvin Woods.

In 2010, Woods was selected as the first chef for Michelle Obama's Let's Move! cooking series, which helps families prepare affordable and healthy meals using a weekly budget of $80.

His latest venture, FunXion, a "fast-casual" restaurant in Washington, D.C., serves American favorites like pizza, tacos and burgers with a healthy twist.

A 25-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Chef Woods began his culinary career at Harrah's Trump at Trump Plaza, and has led the kitchens of Savannah Restaurant, The National Hotel, Hollywood Prime, the Westin Diplomat, M. Woods and Woods on South.

He has served as a guest chef at the James Beard House, a judge for the Southern Living Cook Off, and a celebrity chef at The Pillsbury Bake Off, the Miami Wine & Food Festival and Charlotte Shout. Additionally, Chef Woods was tapped to be the 2011 Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala honoree.

Academy advice that has helped me in my career:

1.) The foundation of a chef is most important, so work no more than 2 years at one place.

2.) Travel often, eat and explore.

3.) Work only for reputable places.

4.) Sleep is overrated.

5.) Constantly challenge yourself to learn.

6.) Never rest on your laurels.

7.) Stay focused; be consistent.


Featured chef cooking at James Beard House, 1998 and 2001

Present jobs:

Chef-owner, cookbook author, cooking show host


FunXion, Washington, D.C.


New American with Southern influence, taking a creative contemporary approach to Low Country cooking -- the food that's traditional in the regions around Charleston and Savannah. Traditional African influences of Low Country cooking melded with Caribbean and Latin American touches. Examples: pig feet empanadas; lobster dumplings in exotic vanilla bean and lobster broth; steamed clams, mussels and shrimp in saffron-coconut broth; sweet potato creme brulee.

What I like best about this job.

Besides traveling and eating, I enjoy the many hats I get to wear.

Media exposure:

Has been featured on NBC's Today Show and on CBS, FOX, CNN, Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Discovery Channel; in magazines including O: The Oprah Magazine, Southern Living, Food & Wine.

Cookbook accomplishments:

  • The New Low-Country Cooking: 125 Recipes for Coastal Southern Cooking with Innovative Style
  • Home Plate Cooking -- Everyday Southern Cuisine with a Fresh Twist

How my Academy education helped me to become successful:

The ACA set the tone and expectations for me on the first day. I knew what to expect and that has kept me grounded and inspired. There aren't many culinary schools that teach you what the real world will be like.

The first week of school, we were told that to be successful, we'd have to sacrifice. For instance, "get used to working on four to six hours of sleep." I'm grateful that I was prepared when I went out.

Why I became a chef:

I love cooking, creating, teaching and writing.

Advice to aspiring chefs:

Go into the business for the right reason, to cook and be the best you can be at it.