by Emily King

It’s about a quarter to five on a Wednesday afternoon. I can hear the cheerful chatter of students in the kitchen as they pack up their knife kits. Chef Marz makes her closing announcements interspersed with gentle teasing in an attempt to encourage some of the less motivated students to complete their homework for the next class. The students file out of the classroom smiling and energized. A few moments later, Chef Marz exits the kitchen.

She is walking slowly and there is a tired tone in her voice, but she still greets me with a smile. Later on in the interview, I will learn that her exhaustion is due to the fact that she stayed after class working with a few students until nearly midnight the previous night. I’m not at all surprised by this fact because that’s just how Chef Marz operates; as she puts it, “I have to put in 120-150% every day, so I can sleep at night.”

Chef Francine Marz puts that the kind of effort into all of her roles at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix where she is chef-instructor and coach of the school’s culinary competition team. In addition to teaching, she is a working on her M.B.A. from Argosy University. With a schedule like that, it’s incredible that she is able to muster the passion and the vigor that she brings to the classroom each day.

She calls her brand of teaching “edutainment” which stems from to her mission to be the instructor she “never had and always wanted.” While Chef Marz holds her students to the highest standards and has even been known to demand an entire re-mopping of floors that she feels are not up to par, students love her classes because they know they can expect to go on field trips, listen to culturally relevant music, and watch the occasional movie clip as they prepare the cuisine of the day. It’s not unusual for students to begin a day of French cooking with a clip from the movie Ratatouille or to enter a kitchen that sounds more like a Latin dance-party as they get ready to tackle Central-American cuisine. Laughter is also a common sound in Chef Marz’s classes. Her lessons are memorable, and in the case of her demonstration on fish fabrication, they occasionally come with “prizes.” Who knew that fish eyeballs, when dried, turn into bouncy balls? Chef Marz’s students do.

 While her teaching style differs from the regimented structure of the education she received from Johnson and Wales of Rhode Island, she credits her flawless work ethic and sense of professionalism to her experience in the program. She was a fierce competitor on the school’s culinary team and completed a baking and pastry-focused internship at Disney’s Epcot Center and the Disney Contemporary Restaurant. She was even one of seven students who received a full-ride scholarship to complete her Master’s Degree at Johnson and Wales, but she ultimately decided that she wanted to get her hands dirty. She felt that putting all of her energy into the industry would allow her to gain experience and generate a network of contacts. This proved to be a wise choice as she developed a stunning resume working for some of the most high-profile companies in the industry.

Chef Marz started out as a butcher and food-stylist at Dean and DeLucca (North Carolina), which is an elite chain of gourmet food stores on the east coast.  Her experience at Dean and DeLucca opened many doors which led to her roles as sous chef, chef tournant, and Executive Chef for Marriott and Renaissance Suites Hotels — all before she was 30. In other words, it took just under a decade for Chef Marz to complete a progression through the ranks of the industry that takes other chefs a lifetime to achieve. When asked about the force that has propelled her through her career thus far, Chef Marz simply points to her passion for food and hospitality.

“I’m just a Chef who wants to make people happy,” she says humbly.


These days, she is spreading happiness on a larger scale than she ever imagined as she equips culinary students with the skills, confidence, and passion they will need to be successful in the industry. Chef Marz is a phenomenal teacher, enjoys her job, and has always been an unstoppable force. When I ask her about her future career aspirations, she admits to being a big supporter of “riding the wave” and seeing where it takes her. Luckily, for culinary students at the Art Institute of Phoenix, the wave is keeping her close to their shore for the time-being.