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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Last winter, James Mark was a 2018 James Beard Award finalist. A few months later, both GQ and Bon Appétit ranked Big King, his newest Rhode Island restaurant, as one of the country’s best places to eat.

But in 2018, the chef and restaurateur spent almost double his personal income on health insurance for his employees: $54,000 to cover a dozen or so people, compared with the $35,000 he paid himself.

Mark spends most of his time at the self-identified “small and strange” Big King, his experimental Asian restaurant on Providence’s trendy West Side, where the handwritten menu changes daily. At downtown’s Dean Hotel, he runs

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