CIA Alum Mark Stark Tells Graduates to Reach for the Chandeliers
Media Relations Specialist
St. Helena, CA – Mark Stark, chef and owner of five restaurants and a catering
company in Sonoma County, CA, told graduates of The Culinary Institute of
America (CIA) at Greystone that his greatest motivation is the fear of being
mediocre. Stark, a CIA alumnus, addressed 38 students
who graduated with Associate in Occupational Studies degrees in both Culinary
Arts and Baking & Pastry Arts at commencement ceremonies in May.
"My definition of mediocre is something or someone that has
the ability to be great, but missed the mark because of lack of commitment,"
said Stark. "I've never wanted to be viewed as a chef that didn't have commitment.
I'd rather reach for the chandeliers and fall flat, than to be ordinary."
After graduating from the CIA's Hyde Park campus in 1984, Stark
began his culinary career in Washington, DC, where he worked as a
at the Four Seasons and later apprenticed under Chef Pierre Chambrin,
who would go on to become the White House chef during the Reagan
Administration. After a six-year stint in Seattle, Stark came to
and, in 2002, moved to Sonoma County, where he and his wife Terri
opened Willi's Wine Bar to rave reviews. Their umbrella restaurant
company, Stark Reality Restaurants, now includes Willi's Wine Bar,
Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, Monti's Rotisserie & Bar, Stark's
Steak & Seafood,
and Bravas Tapas Bar.
Willi's Wine Bar has been named
one of the top 100 Bay Area Restaurants by the San Francisco Chronicle for the last three years, and the newly opened Bravas has been hailed as one of
food critic Michael Bauer's top 100 restaurants for 2013. Mark and Terri Stark
were also nominated this year for a James Beard Award for Outstanding
"You're about to join an exclusive club," Stark told the
graduates. "It's a lifetime membership. I'm a member, and
I welcome you."
Photo Caption and Hi-Res Image
Chef Mark Stark told CIA graduates he never wanted to be
viewed as a chef who didn't have commitment. (Photo credit: CIA/Charlie Gesell)
View hi-res image >
Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is an independent,
not-for-profit college offering associate and bachelor's degrees with majors in
culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and culinary science, as well as
certificate programs in culinary arts and wine and beverage studies. As the
world's premier culinary college, the CIA provides thought leadership in the
areas of health & wellness, sustainability, and world cuisines &
cultures through research and conferences. The CIA has a network of 45,000
alumni that includes industry leaders such as Grant Achatz,
Anthony Bourdain, Roy Choi,
Cat Cora, Dan Coudreaut, Steve Ells, Johnny Iuzzini, Charlie Palmer, and Roy Yamaguchi. The CIA also
offers courses for professionals and enthusiasts, as well as consulting
services in support of innovation for the foodservice and hospitality industry.
The college has campuses in Hyde Park, NY; St. Helena, CA; San Antonio, TX; and
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