Chef Mark Ballen 2014 Lucky Fins He grew up with his mother, a professional baker and his father who was a gourmet cook. Their passion for food as an expression of their Croatian culture was a part of his identity for as long as he can remember. Food to them was a common language used to connect with friends and neighbors, most of whom became their extended family over an overflowing dinner table. His passion for cooking led him to restaurant kitchens even before he was a teenager. He found great joy in juggling his school activities and the excitement of a professional kitchen. That has helped him grow from dishwasher to ultimately an executive chef. That journey has taken him over twenty years and to this day he continues to enjoy the creative energy and excitement of preparing meals at Lucky Fins Seafood Grill.