Rising Star Chef Samuel Charles and Marcus Eng of The Way Back - Biography

Denver, CO

March 2017

Though he grew up in Salt Lake City, Sam Charles’ first food memories are of meals at his grandfather’s home off the coast of Oregon. Dinner consisted of a daily catch and produce from the family garden. Such experiences led Charles to culinary school in Iowa. Not the right fit at the time, he dropped out and started bartending, which ultimately led him to Chicago. In Chi-town, he cut his teeth at The Bristol (with Rising Stars alum Chris Pandel), and was later part of the opening team at Trenchermen. Charles left Chicago to be closer to his aging grandfather, who had moved to Colorado. Arriving in Denver, he joined the opening team of Steve Redzikowski’s Acorn, where he met his future chef-partner Marcus Eng.

Eng’s culinary career began as a short order cook in high school, and ended (or so he thought) when he enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder. In need of beer money, he was drawn back to the kitchen. From dish pit to the line at Jeff Osaka’s Twelve, Eng honed his skills and eventually traveled cross country, picking up stages along the way.

Charles and Eng found a mentor in Redzikowski, and a business partner in each other. In 2016, restaurateur dream team Chad Michael George, Jared Schwartz, and Kade Gianinetti tapped the chef-duo to open The Way Back. There, Charles and Eng focus on classic technique and forward-thinking regional cuisine.