Marcus Barnes began cooking out of necessity as a 6-year-old boy raised by a single-mother who worked long hours to ensure he and his three siblings were cared for. He describes the motivation for cooking his first meal in simple terms.
“As the oldest, we were all hungry, so I began mimicking my mother and put a tin pan on the stove and the rest was the history,” said Barnes.
The Houston chef began working professionally at the age of 16, and has worked in every facet of the food industry from fast food to fine dining, and worn many hats in between. Stemming from a long line of great cooks, Barnes inherited much of his talent, but credits his mother’s vast spice cabinet for helping him to develop an admiration of flavors. He experimented with some of the traditional menu items at one of the establishments he worked for in his early years and the dishes quickly became customer favorites.
“A lot of customers would come back to the establishment because they loved the dishes that I enhanced,” shared Barnes.
Barnes eventually became burnt out with working 14-plus hour days in the industry. He decided to take a step of faith and launched Distinguished Flavor, Private Chef and Catering, a venture that allowed him to take his culinary skills to new heights and serve the needs of his own clientele, including a number of celebrities.
When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, Barnes, like many in the hospitality and food industries, was forced to find new ways to sustain his business. He began hosting intimate date nights for customers in their homes and developed different measures that ensured clients of a sanitary and safe environment.
“They have faith not only in my culinary services, but also in knowing that I have implemented preventive measures to protect them as well. So I will come with my temperature gun and my proper mask and bring my own supplies to sanitize spaces and also encourage safe distancing while I am serving my clients,” said Barnes.
He also pivoted and began providing virtual and in-person cooking classes for his clients who were choosing to eat at home due to the pandemic. “I started hosting virtual cooking classes where I am with my clients from the beginning of the recipe to the finished product,” shared Barnes.
A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Barnes also has developed a number of sauces, spice blends, and books that he will be marketing in the near future. “I push this for all entrepreneurs – you have to naturally evolve and have got to be able to make sure that you have something you can make income from, where you are, and that is what quarantine taught me.”
A strong proponent of giving back, Barnes also looks for opportunities to promote other entrepreneurs, including Tyla-Simone Crayton, a Missouri City teen who is the founder of Sienna Sauce and was featured on CNBC. “The young lady was only 15 years old when she created her own chicken wing sauce line, she and her mother, which is a beautiful sauce.”
A student of the Art Institute of Houston, Barnes describes entrepreneurship as a lonely path that requires tenacity, discipline, tact, and character. He looks for opportunities to celebrate and help recharge the batteries of the fellow entrepreneurs he encounters on his journey.
In the spirit of empowering others, Barnes shares several tips he believes will help entrepreneurs sustain their businesses during COVID-19, and beyond:
Top Keys of Success to Maintain and Grow Your Business
1) First, grab for inspiration, start at square one, and make it very realistic when you put together a game plan for your business.
2). Find out what you initially need to do to reach your end goal.
3). Search for the most successful person in that field and study them to see what makes them unique and special.
4). Put on your best suit and model yourself after successful individuals in the industry you will be in.
5). Learn how to communicate effectively. and be prepared with the knowledge that will get you to the table.
6). Find out what specific licenses that you need.
7). Get out there and start networking. Have your business cards ready, and make sure your business card reflects your brand and accurately conveys what you do.
8). Look for a mentor and find out their back stories to find out the strategies that have worked for them.
9). Once you put yourself out there you will be surprised about attributes that you naturally possess that will make you great at what you aspire to do.
10). I believe God naturally places your gift inside of you but it is up to you to stay abreast on the different things that are evolving in your industry, and develop relationships.
Barnes aims to uplift and empower other entrepreneurs as he carves out his path in the industry and hopes to one day have his own cooking show on one of the networks.
“All the people I aspire after are the ones that have left an echo in history and time, and stayed eternal. “I live to be a blessing. I do things quietly, and look for opportunities to pour into others and to fill a need or gap in their lives. To be the best blessing I can be, that is my ultimate goal,” said Barnes.
In addition to running a successful catering and private chef business, the multi-faceted entrepreneur has written songs for Platinum-producing music artists, hosted a radio show, and is carving out a path in real estate. He is looking to align with successful businesses in developing products for his catering business.