Length of Employment: 20 Years

Passion Is Key Ingredient
Jim Beck is Executive Chef and Restaurateur of the French Market Grille West located in Augusta, GA. For almost twelve years, he and his staff have jazzed the locals with authentic Creole and Cajun cuisine usually found only in New Orleans.

Jim has over 20 years experience in the culinary arts. In 1989, his Dad and younger Brother John, convinced Jim to pick up the ladle and join them in their Atlanta restaurant venture called A Taste of New Orleans. It wasn’t long before the Beck family transformed a Taste of New Orleans into one of Atlanta’s Top 10 Restaurants for the next decade.

Jim’s desire ultimately became his passion as he trained with his Brother John and Head Chef, Greg Hearndon. For four years, he apprenticed at the restaurant, reading everything he could gets his hands on, including a culinary encyclopedia called Gastro Monique and experimenting with recipes. Jim readily admits, “My passion — my strength — is in the kitchen.” What little time he wasn’t working in the restaurant, he spent sleeping on an army cot in a small studio apartment in the Emory area.

In October 1992, Jim and his Dad decided to bring to Augusta, GA their successful concept. They opened a smaller version of Atlanta’s finest and called it A Touch Of New Orleans, located on lower Walton Way. They used the same business model and award-winning recipes. Initially, the restaurant was well received, but as the craze settled, the location proved unsuitable for attracting dinner patrons and could not sustain itself on lunch business alone.

In November, 1996, long-time family friend and business associate, Charles Durand of US Food Service, approached Jim about a restaurant business opportunity. On Sunday of that Thanksgiving weekend, Jim sat down with owners Chuck and Gail Baldwin at the French Market Grille Surrey Center to discuss Jim’s future in the French Market family. The Baldwins’ informed Jim they would be opening a second location called French Market Grille West with silent partners Frank Chirkinian and Carl Swanson, but they needed someone to operate it.

In January, 1997, Jim was assigned as Kitchen Manager for the new FMG West location. Within six months, he had demonstrated his passion and business acumen and was promoted to Operations Manager.

As newly appointed Operations Manager, Jim invoked his Atlanta restaurant management style and culinary experiences, while introducing unique recipes exclusive to the French Market Grille West location: Seafood Cakes, Bourbon Street Duck, Grouper Moutarde, the only authentic Muffaletta, and Crepe Mascarpone, just to name a few.

He modified many of the existing French Market recipes to make them more authentic Creole and Cajun dishes. Jim exchanged water used in the Surrey Center recipes for a richer, homemade seafood stock comprised of chicken bones, shrimp, crab, and lobster shells. To ensure the best customer experience, he eliminated use of canned products and committed to using only fresh ingredients. Jim’s philosophy is simply “It doesn’t cost that much more to do it right.”

Jim also improved the quality of service. His previous experience had taught him service is equally important as the food, and so he began to hire folks that shared the same passion he had. Incidentally, Jim has nearly one dozen employees that have served the French Market Grille West for more than nine years.

By 2006, Jim and Carl Swanson had purchased all shares of the FMG West location. Carl continues to mentor Jim as a silent partner, while Chef Beck owns and operates one of the biggest success stories in Augusta.

There are many people and circumstances that have influenced Jim Beck into the man, son, brother, chef, partner, employer, and friend he is today.

God is instrumental and the central role model in Jim’s life, giving him the faith to endure and succeed in doing something he truly loves.

Jim credits his Dad, Mom , Brother John, and Sister Joy for their support. They cultivated his passion for the restaurant business and the culinary arts. He recounted how simple and traditional, yet phenomenal his parents’ Southern cooking tasted. It was inevitable that their passion would rub off on Jim and his Brother, and the two began concocting recipes as early teenagers.

Jim’s childhood summers were not like other kids’. Instead, he spent his hours working with his Dad on his Grandfather’s farm in Augusta. His days included planting, picking crops, and tending to more than 80 head of cattle. By age fifteen, it was not uncommon for Jim to single-handedly pick a truckload of corn and drive it to the Aiken Farmers Market to sell the crop with his Mom and little Brother. Work was always hard, but Jim insists, “It gave me a strong work ethic and was the foundation for my organizational skills. I thank my parents for that!”

Jim’s Father also had a profound influence on him. His Dad retired as a public servant — first as a police officer, then as Augusta’s Chief of Police, and finally as Sheriff of Augusta from 1976-1980. His Dad’s selfless and no-nonsense attitude shaped Jim and how he related to the world around him. It instilled a moral and ethical code that guides Jim in his day-to-day business and personal life. And like his Dad, he works to serve others, while striving to be the best.

Jim also has had many friends who have guided and cheered him on, including Charles Durand, who introduced Jim to the Chuck and Gail Baldwin. Jim’s friend, the late Nick Pascarella, was a mentor and founder of the Western Sizzler chain. Surrounding himself with successful restaurateurs obviously rubbed off on Jim.

Finally, Jim’s staff continues to bless him. They carry the same passion and devotion to succeed. It’s their commitment to Jim and his life-long dream that makes the French Market Grille West one of Augusta’s most treasured landmarks.