By Kate Quesada

Riverview resident Rene Marquis believes he has one of the most important jobs at Bloomingdale High School.

“As the lead culinary instructor, I teach students how to take care of themselves and others,” said Marquis. “This is without a doubt one of the most important jobs in the school.”

Marquis, who has been teaching at Bloomingdale High School for a year, takes his job very seriously. There are currently 400 students in the school’s culinary program, which is part of the career and technical department, and a waiting list of more who would like to get in. Many of the students go on to work in the industry, including 2008 graduate Wesley Roderick who is now an executive chef at South Tampa’s On Swann. Current senior in the program, Gigi Rivera recently won the Fresh From Florida Student Cook-Off against students from all over the state.

“We are giving our students skills they will use in life in so many ways,” said Marquis.

Marquis’ road to teaching at Bloomingdale took him through the Culinary Institute of America and the United States Army where he served as a chef and also competed in both the Culinary World Cup and the Culinary Olympics three times each. However, his biggest claim to fame may be the fact that he won season one, episode seven of the Food Network television show Cutthroat Kitchen in 2013.

“I am very competitive,” said Marquis, who has lived in the Riverview area since he retired from Macdill Air Force Base 10 years ago. “All of things I have done in my past have led me here though.”

Students in the Bloomingdale program, which is one of more than a dozen in the county, earn industry certification with the National ProStart Certificate of Achievement as a Certified Professional Food Manager from ServSafe. The program started at school in 2014. Under Marquis’ direction, the students grow their own vegetables and herbs in an outdoor garden and also cook meals that can be purchased by school staff every day.

For more information on Bloomingdale High School’s Culinary Department, call the school at 744-8018.

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Kate Quesada is the Multimedia Manager for the Osprey Observer Newspapers. She has been working for the paper in various positions since 2005 when she graduated with her Masters degree in mass communications. She lives in Valrico with her husband Mike and son Dylan.