Patrick’s Grille provides its student intern a sponsorship and helps fuel culinary passion

Patrick’s Grille provides its student intern a sponsorship and helps fuel culinary passion

Patrick’s Grille provides its student intern a sponsorship and helps fuel culinary passion

When Emmanuel Johnson, a senior at AK Smith Career Center, started interning as a chef and dishwasher at Patrick’s Grille three months ago, he thought he was just getting some wonderful experience. However, on Friday, January 13, Johnson had his dreams come true when he received a $1500 sponsorship from Patrick's Grille to help fund his participation in Disney’s national high school food competition. All of Johnson’s instructors and mentors were beyond excited to give him this award and congratulate him on all his hard work. 

“It means a lot. A lot of people don't get the opportunity to go to Disney and cook in a competition, especially people like me who only have a little bit of cooking experience. There aren’t very many people who are given sponsorship to compete in a competition. It’s like a dream come true for me. It's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Johnson. 

Johnson has been cooking with his mom since he was a little kid. Whether it was helping her out in the kitchen during holidays or helping her cook for birthdays, he loved being in the kitchen. He joined AK Smith’s culinary program to explore and learn more about the culinary world and decided that becoming a chef, or maybe even a restaurant owner, was what he wanted to do. He started interning at Patrick’s Grille in September to get some culinary experience. 

Because the AK Smith Career Center’s culinary program is designed to let students explore, the instructors work hard to find great learning opportunities for the students. When Mary Koselke, one of the culinary instructors at AK Smith Career Center, heard about the Disney competition she knew she had to get her students there. 

During the Disney competition, students from all around the country will come to get hands-on culinary experience, compete against one another, and learn from celebrity chefs. AK Smith is sending nine of its top culinary kids to Disney for the competition, and Johnson was a first choice. 

“The kids had to be the best in our class. They have to have all their work turned in consistently, they have to demonstrate a good work ethic all the time, and they have to be leaders in our class, and I can say that Emmanuel is by far the best leader. He is a leader in both classes, and I cannot think of a better kid to go with us to Disney. He really is the epitome of the best of our program. I’m really excited for him,” said Koselke. 

Even though the trip isn’t until April 21st, Johnson’s already looking forward to the experience and can’t wait to learn. 

“I’m a little nervous because I know there are people counting on me to work hard and put my skills to the test during this competition. I know there are going to be celebrity chefs and a lot of other kids who want to be chefs. So, it’s kind of scary but I’m excited too because I’ve never gotten to do a competition like this before, especially at Disney, so that’s super cool. I’m looking forward to it,” said Johnson. 

Despite Johnson’s nerves, nobody has any doubts in their mind that he’ll succeed, especially Johnson’s mentor, Rick Bruggeman, who is the Executive Chef at Patrick’s Grille. He’s extremely proud of how much he’s grown and how eager he is to learn. He couldn’t be happier that Patrick’s Grille provided him with sponsorship. 

“He’s a good kid. He listens and he wants to get better and he knows when he messes up. He won’t send out a dish that’s not right. The other day he was cooking and he knew his chicken piccata sauce wasn’t quite right. We were waiting for it and he said I have to make a new one so it’s right, and I appreciate that about him. He’s just an all-around good kid,” said Chef Bruggeman. 

Johnson was very humble about receiving such a thoughtful award, and couldn’t thank everyone enough for everything they’ve done for him.

“I’m thankful for my mom. She's always been there for me. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her--I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for my mom. I want to thank Chef Mary and Chef Marcelo-- if it weren’t for them, I wouldn't have this opportunity to go to Disney. I wouldn't even be an employee at Patrick's. So, I really appreciate them. I also want to thank Patrick, the owner, for giving me this sponsorship. I’m thankful to my uncle too because he also gave me a sponsorship. He's really been there for me growing up. I love and appreciate him. Lastly, I want to thank Chef Rick for teaching me and giving me his knowledge and his cooking skills,” said Johnson. 

At the end of the day, everyone is beyond excited for Johnson and can’t wait to see how he does.

“I’m really glad we were able to give him this. I wish I could go. I wish I had an opportunity like this when I was his age, so I’m glad he’s getting this chance. I wish him the best,” said Chef Bruggeman. 

To learn more about Patrick’s Grille, visit