Marc Melvin Goes From Rao's to ICE
This student's pursuing a double diploma while working at the famed restaurant.
Marc Melvin (Culinary, '21), has worked at iconic Italian restaurant Rao's in East Harlem for nine years. He's come to the Institute of Culinary Education to pursue a double diploma in the hopes of one day opening his own Italian eatery.
Marc has worked in hospitality for 15 years. He learned the ropes at some neighborhood spots and spent the last nine years working front-of-house at Rao’s, the venerated Italian restaurant with tables reserved for high-profile diners in New York’s East Harlem. Ready for a new challenge, he began to seriously consider opening his own burger restaurant in late 2019, going so far as negotiating a lease.
But something didn’t feel quite right, so before the end of the year he backed out. That proved to be good timing as restaurants around the city and around the world were about to close en masse. Left behind with time and savings that were supposed to go toward starting his own business, Marc decided to invest in himself and enroll in the Culinary Arts program at ICE.
“It was the challenge that I was asking for,” he says. “I’ve now had the chance to create relationships that I wouldn't have had if I didn't come here.”
Marc didn’t always have culinary dreams. One of eight kids, he grew up in East Harlem, just three blocks from Rao’s. At age 12 he worked for a local butcher and delivered meat to the famous Italian restaurant, not knowing that he’d one day work at the 125-year-old institution.
After graduating high school, Marc said he was lazy, just hanging around the house or with friends. But his family was evicted from their home, forcing Marc to find a job to support them. He’d soon get his first restaurant gig, working 10-hour days into the early mornings and bringing home just $20 a shift plus tips. Through hard work, he’d quickly find his footing in the industry.
“When I got to Rao's is when I realized how much I actually loved it — the service, how you make people feel when you walk in a restaurant. That's when I started going, ‘Maybe one day I can do this,’” he says.
Marc completed the Culinary Arts program knowing he never wanted to be a chef. Instead, he was thinking of his future, realizing he needed to be well versed in front- and back-of-house operations if he were to ever open his own restaurant. He’s since come back to ICE to pursue a Restaurant & Culinary Management diploma, which he says is opening his eyes to the business side of the industry.
“Now looking back, it was a godsend that I didn't open up the burger place because I had never thought about numbers,” he says. “I just thought, If I make a good burger, people will come. I didn't realize how much more there was to running a business.”
Marc has since ditched plans to run a burger joint, instead hoping to open an Italian-American restaurant that features fresh pasta made in-house within the next two years. He hopes that his well-rounded experience and education will make him an attractive bet to future investors.
“There's a passion that drives me,” he says. “I want to learn as much as I can from everyone.”
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