Mike Buttles

Mike Buttles HS

One of the greatest assets of what we do is that culinary is the world’s most portable profession. Michael Buttles , Faculty, Culinary Arts , The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

My first position, after graduating from the University of South Florida in rhetoric and public address (speech), was as a property manager and trainer for residential and commercial real estate. In a very short time, I was promoted to a position where I was responsible to train new managers. I look back on my successes and can wholly attribute them to an ability to see circumstances and issues, including what’s for dinner, through the eyes of others. Face it; cooking for others, not yourself, is the credo for any practicing chef. Armed with this background and an incredible understanding in fiscal decision making that came right along with it, I eagerly approached the next learning phase of my life; culinary school in Paris, France.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

During the past years, I have been an instructor, an historian, an executive chef, a restaurant consultant, a program director, and a student for a very enjoyable time. Needless to say, a lot of this overlapped. One of the greatest assets of what we do is that culinary is the world’s most portable profession. I try to share my experiences in the industry and also connect the dots historically for students who have not traveled or experienced as many different cuisines.  

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

My classrooms encourage sharing ideas and experiences. When we critique food we talk about the flavors, textures, and techniques used to achieve a finish product. I also focus on the business of foodservice to ensure that students understand that being a professional cook or chef is different from cooking in your home. You need to understand how to manage resources and, most importantly, time.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Collaboration in the food and beverage industry is how we take care of our guests. Assignments in my classes foster this collaboration so that students practice communication and partnership with others towards a common goal.  

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

I teach students in my classes to be lifelong learners. I demonstrate to them that I am still learning and encourage them to not think of school as a thing you do once. Learning is a process of developing and engaging with the world to understand more over a much longer period of time.