Mark Bly has two passions in life: flying and cooking. At the tender age of 11, he won his class cooking competition. He baked a ham! At 16, he began flying lessons at Anchorage’s Merrill Field—without his mother’s blessing. When Bly left home, he took two of his most important possessions—his airbed and his wok.
“I once applied to the Culinary Institute of America in New York,” Bly says. “That was back in the 90s, and I was summarily chastised for even wasting their time.”
Today, Bly flies 747s for one of the world’s largest air cargo companies. He also owns a thriving catering company using the cooking skills he has honed while flying across the globe. Around Alaska, Mark Bly is known as the flying chef.
“I remember being a young, cocky pilot making my way into the kitchen of the Kuala Lumpur Hilton,” said Bly. “I soon realized I didn’t know which end of the knife was sharp. The executive chef agreed to mentor me, and my journey continued. Week after week, and month after month, I practiced my craft; sometimes four attempts at a dish would lead to another failure. My guru was always there with patience and wisdom.”
Whether his travels take him to Thailand, Dubai, Spain or Australia, Bly seeks out the local flavors. He isn’t shy about asking a street vendor for tips on cooking techniques or spices. Bly, a lifelong Alaskan, submitted the winning recipe of grilled halibut cheeks for Alaska magazine’s Fish to Fork contest. The recipes were judged by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
Bly tells Alaska magazine that sharing food is important, and the best part of his day is watching people enjoy the dishes he creates. With the help of his wife, Erika, Bly sells his hand-mixed Herbs de Provence, Ultimate Alaskan Seasoning and Bloody Mary mixer (a favorite among campers and Alaska magazine staff). Bly is also the author of The Alaska Distillery Cookbook. His products can be found at Facebook.com/theflyingchef