Brian Dukes, chef of the Blue Marlin in Columbia, is originally from Knoxville, Tenn. In 2007, he was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. He prepared some of the classic Lowcountry dishes the Blue Marlin is known for. Located in Columbia's Vista district, the restaurant also offers dishes with a Cajun influence and steaks.
Q: What are you cooking these days that excites you the most?
A: We are getting some really nice vegetables and fish right now. Grouper is great from the coast of South Carolina. We are serving it as a special with succotash of local butter beans, corn and tomatoes. It's simple and tastes great.
Q: What or who inspired you to become a chef?
A: My uncle helped me out. I started working in the kitchen as a dishwasher at 16, moved up quickly to a cook and found I really enjoyed the restaurant and was good at it. A couple years later, he suggested I look into culinary school. I went to Johnson and Wales University and graduated in 1998.
Q: Which cookbook (if any) has had the biggest impact on you?
A: "The Escoffier Cookbook," a guide to the fine art of French cuisine. He was one of the first to document French techniques. If you can master the techniques, you can cook any style of food; just change the ingredients to what is indigenous to the area you are in. He has almost 3,000 recipes in the book. It is a great reference for any chef.
Q: What tools would you suggest every home cook invest in?
A: A good quality 8" French knife, also called a chef's knife (keep it sharp); all-clad stainless steel saute pan; a micro plane for zesting lemons, grating cheese or chocolate; Le Crueset dutch oven: a good Teflon omelet pan; and a good cutting board. I have a heavy-duty wooden chopping block that I love.
Q: What music plays in your kitchen?
A: I'm a huge Phish fan, so Phish plays a lot. I have a 14-month-old daughter who likes to be in the kitchen when I'm cooking, so we listen to her music as well. She loves Ziggy Marley's children's music.
Q: What's your prediction for the next big food or restaurant trend?
A: I hope it is great tasting fresh, local food that is good for you.
Q: Is there a food you simply refuse to eat?
A: Riblets and chicken nuggets.
Q: What's the best tip you can give a home cook?
A: Keep it simple and follow the recipe. Keep a clean and organized workspace.