Who Goes to Culinary School: Mark Buley

Mark David Buley, ACE Graduate

Mark David Buley, ACE Graduate

My name is Mark David Buley. I am twenty-five years old and I grew up in a small agricultural town in Wisconsin. My mother is a teacher and and my father is an international business man.  I spent much of my childhood listening to stories of my father’s travels, negotiations in the Soviet Union, conferences in China and trips throughout Africa.  His stories always captivated me.  He would come home after weeks abroad, kick off his shoes and collapse into his leather arm chair near the fireplace to share the highlights of his adventures abroad.

When I was eight years old, my father, freshly returned from a trip to Paris, captivated my attention with his description of the dinner he had eaten at the esteemed restaurant, Maxim’s. The stories he told from this trip abroad seemed dramatically different to me. Watching and listening to a man who I thought had seen it all, swoon and sigh about his meal at the famous Paris restaurant struck a chord within me. I knew from that moment what my life’s work would be; I decided I must learn to cook at a level that would make even the most adventurous diners stop and pay attention. My goal became to work in a restaurant where eating was a near religious experience.

The next years of my life found me in and out of the principal’s office, my teachers frustrated at my lack of focus and attention, where my siblings had thrived.  I struggled through middle school and high-school with threats of transfer to St. Johns Military Academy where my grandfather had been the Chaplin.

My only real moments of glory came on the weekends when I worked as a busboy at a restaurant near my parent’s home. For three days a week I had a sense of place. I bussed tables and washed dishes with my eyes fixed on the line where the cooks moved frantically over oil and fire, sliding plates into the window and calling out to the service staff.

I knew my time to focus was fast approaching with my senior year under way my 2.1 grade point average left me with few options.  The reality of the situation set in; I had my eyes fixed on a Wisconsin state school where they offered degrees in Hotel and Restaurant Management, the school would serve as a perfect proving ground for me to get focused and grounded before I turned to the school that held the surest route to my life’s goal  The Culinary Institute of America.

My time at the University of Wisconsin-Stout proved to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I found my true sense of discipline and focus. Four years later, I had earned a 3.8 grade point average, a nomination as honor student delegate at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago and held a position as Chef de Cuisine at one of the area’s best restaurants.  At that point I knew I was ready for the rigor of the Culinary Institute of America.  I applied for the ACE (Advance Career Experience) program in the fall of 2007.

I write today as a graduate from the CIA from my new home in Aspen, Colorado and the acclaimed restaurant, Montagna at the Little Nell, still taking steps toward my life’s work.

One thought on “Who Goes to Culinary School: Mark Buley

  1. Now I am a culinary school student, so you know I selected this. But I did so with my eyes open.

    The average line cook earns $9 an hour. Forget the romance of cooking for one moment and try and figure out how you are going to pay off a hefty student loan of thousands and thousands of dollars on that?

    I’m not saying don’t do it. Just saying do it wisely. Then you can do it worry-free.


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