US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

USVI Culinary Team Pastry Chef Natalie Buckner has earned an Associate of Occupational Studies in Baking and Pastry Arts from the Culinary Institute of America, a Bachelors in Baking and Pastry and Foodservice Management from Johnson & Wales University, and a MBA in Hospitality from Johnson & Wales University; and she’s only 29 years old.

Buckner started cooking as soon as she was tall enough to reach the stove, she remembered. Cooking as a child with her grandmother, Buckner began to develop a passion for culinary arts. She went to vocational culinary school in high school where she was introduced to baking and pastry arts. After high school, Buckner decided to specialize in baking and pastry arts because she found it to be more challenging for her than culinary arts.

“Aside from my passion for pastry, my eight year old son motivates me to be the best I can be,” Buckner said. “I want to provide a better life for him and show him that mommy can do it all. I can work full time, help him with homework and his school, complete my schooling and win gold at my upcoming Taste of the Caribbean competition. So far I am on track.”

Buckner also credits her success to the support of her loved ones. Her ultimate goal is to own a successful pastry business.

In addition to Buckner’s work in the culinary and pastry field, she is an advocate for tourism. Buckner noted that her “passion for tourism comes in the form of information.” She believes that it is important for those working in the tourism industry to inform themselves about the territory so they can make guests’ experiences more authentic. For example, Buckner likes knowing about local ingredients and how they are used so she can apply it in her profession and pass it on.

“Natalie continues to amaze me with her hard work and dedication. She works full time and recently completed her master’s degree while raising her son and being a very active participant on the USVI Culinary Team,” said USVIHTA President Lisa Hamilton. “The team can always count on Natalie to assist us with the finest details of the competition. We look forward to her competing again this year, and will cheer her on during quest for gold!”