In an effort to prepare the future workforce of the food industry—and scout out potential future employees—Patrick’s Grille team members work closely with La Porte County Career and Technical Education, housed at the A.K. Smith Career Center. The high school differs from others in that it places students on a fast track to their careers, offering hands-on learning opportunities and real-world work experience. Credits can be transferred to two or four-year colleges, and students can earn additional certifications to help secure jobs fresh out of high school.
La Porte County Career and Technical Education’s Culinary Arts Academy, led by Chef Instructor Mary Koselke, prepares students for occupations and higher education programs related to the entire spectrum of careers in the food industry. For two years, Executive Chef Rick Bruggeman and Catering/Events Manager Julie Krause have served on the A.K. Smith Culinary Arts Advisory Board. The board ensures the program meets the needs of food service operations and keeps Koselke informed of changes in the industry.
“Their partnership provides a real advantage to my students and to me as the teacher,” Koselke said. “I am able to stay more up to date on what is going on in restaurants—trends in food, trends in service, and the challenges my students will face in the job market.”
For the past year, Koselke has also been selecting students to intern at Patrick’s Grille or Sunset Grille, a sister restaurant to Patrick’s Grille. Upon completing the Culinary Arts Academy, interns then have a chance to be hired directly by one of the restaurants. This established relationship is mutually beneficial to the students and their leaders.
“Working directly with the students, I am able to develop a relationship and learn their strengths or areas of training needed prior to hiring them,” Krause said. “They feel more comfortable with me as volunteer than as a boss.”
Even without the opportunity for direct placement, the experience participants gain is priceless.
“The biggest benefit is for my students getting real life practice and exposure to fine dining experiences,” Koselke said.
“We work with them at a young age and are able to teach them the proper skills for both the back and front of house before they get into the job force,” Krause added.
Koselke credited a lot of the program’s successes to Krause’s assistance.
“Let me just say that Julie has been amazing!” Koselke said. “Every single time I have asked for help with the program, she has been here for us. She is a dream advisory board member.”
This school year, Krause volunteered for A.K. Smith’s Future Careers Day, where students practiced interviewing, filling out applications, writing resumes, and prepping for overall job readiness.
“I was really pleased when Julie asked a few of our students to come and interview at Patrick’s [Grille] and Sunset Grille,” Koselke said.
Krause also volunteered for the Culinary Arts Academy’s Italian Bistro Luncheon, which served 85 people and allowed seven students to work front of house (i.e., in the dining room). In addition, she helped a student practice for a statewide restaurant server competition.
“She came in and helped her with fine dining service protocols and prepared her for the high level of competition seen at state,” Koselke said. “As an advisory board member, Julie has just been extraordinary, which connects her to my students, who, in many cases, are job seekers.”