Chef Mark Blaauboer

Chef Mark Blaauboer

Collaboration is the magic and what makes the world interesting. Chef Mark Blaauboer , Program Chair, Culinary , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I realized that I enjoyed the culinary arts back when I was a junior in high school. I worked in a French restaurant in New York and one of the owners happened to be a culinary arts instructor. He recognized that I had some interest and creative talent as I helped with kitchen production. At that point in life, I was just trying to figure out my plan for the future. After my experience in the kitchen, I found that I was drawn to it and was interested in exploring the next level. I decided to pursue my education at Johnson & Wales University. 

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

When I work with students, I try to remember my experiences at their age. As I’m working with them the questions that they ask and the behaviors that they exhibit are usually similar. I have to remind myself that everything is so fresh, new, and exciting for them. Even with all my experience, I need to target my commentary to their original question and not overwhelm them with more detail than needed. 

As a Food & Beverage Director, there is so much training happening at every level, which gave me a natural transition into culinary education. The joy is to peel back the training and remind students that learning is a process. You need to have a sense of urgency, but also take your time to refine your skills and how that links to the next competency. Skills in culinary build on each other in each class and there is always a direct relationship from industry training to the classroom. 

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?

In the past, I used to teach our culinary capstone class. In this class, students developed a business plan for a restaurant concept. We were lucky enough to have an opportunity to collaborate with the hospitality class for interior design students and a corporate planning class for graphic design students. Culinary would develop their concept and partner with an interior design student and graphic design student to present a mini vignette of their idea. This project was called “Crossing Palettes.” In my mind, it was a nice finish to their degree and embodied business acumen and employability skills with working across disciplines. Students would exhibit their project during the Portfolio Show and invite employers. I believe this project portrayed the essence of this school—using multi disciplinary approach with creatives to further develop employability skills and real-life situations.

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

Collaboration is an employability skill. You need to be open to ideas and be flexible. You need to set deadlines. Collaboration fosters creativity and provokes excitement. It also challenges you to find solutions, think as a team and work as a team. You just can’t do it by yourself. Collaboration is the magic and what makes the world interesting.

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 think being a good listener is an underrated skill set that is more noticeable later in life. Time management is another skill that is essential to being successful in life. Lastly, be kind and try to be understanding and helpful. It makes you more approachable and people will be drawn to you. In essence, all of these outline what it takes to be a strong leader. The earlier young professionals perfect these skills, the earlier potential leadership opportunities will arise. 

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

One of my favorite times in my career was working in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in St. Thomas and St. John, as a chef and catering to an International clientele. My favorite part of this experience was a culmination working with so many interesting people, the culture, the food, and island lifestyle of flip flops, sunscreen and no cares. I was making exquisite dishes and then snorkeling in the same day.