Planting Trees

08/01/2023 01:48 AM By Lisa Anderson
For the Love of Food
Patrick Stanley
Patrick Stanley
Story by Lisa Anderson • Photo by Joshua Jacobs

Planting Trees

Culinary Arts Teacher Inspires the Next Generation

Born in Woodbury, New Jersey but raised in Florida, Patrick Stanley’s life consists of colorful threads of experiences that have ultimately intertwined to form a career dedicated to culinary education. His love of food, combined with an extensive background in performing arts, has helped him inspire the next generation of chefs and restaurant managers.

Right Place, Right Time

Patrick never went to culinary school. As he points out, it’s not for everyone. “The majority of chefs that I know—really successful chefs—they’ve never attended culinary school. The reason why they got into it is because of their absolute obsession with it.”

His life is a testament to the diversity and richness of human potential. When he talks about the symbolism behind a chef’s hat, Patrick displays his enthusiasm for the culinary world. “Eggs [are] one of the most delicate things that you can cook. If you’ve ever seen a chef’s hat, that’s called a toque blanche. They have exactly 100 folds in their hat. The tradition is that the person wearing that hat, which is the executive chef, wears one that’s 18 inches tall… Each fold represents the different ways that they can cook an egg.”

This deep fascination with symbolic details is a window into Patrick’s multifaceted persona, and perhaps one of the reasons he was asked to teach a culinary program at Forest High School. Patrick was already a history teacher in the Marion County Public School (MCPS) system when another faculty member saw him working at a restaurant during the summer break. The chance encounter has given him a seven-year career—and counting—as a culinary instructor.

A Cultural Journey

As a musician and actor, Patrick has an intrinsic understanding of the role the arts play in his life. He counts cooking as one of his artistic outlets. Perhaps, it was the influence of his father’s flower shop or that his father was also a talented piano player that fanned the artistic flame in Patrick. 

He started his music career as a band nerd, playing the trombone at Forest High School. During his senior year, Patrick was asked to join the choir. This had a domino effect that landed him at his first audition at the Ocala Civic Theatre (OCT) for a role in South Pacific.

Since then, Patrick has acted and sung in several performances at OCT, Insomniac Theatre Company, Angel Cabaret Theatre (Tampa), and the Hippodrome Theatre (Gainesville). He has even had the opportunity to play trombone at OCT.

Legacy of Learning

For Patrick, education doesn’t stop within the confines of a traditional classroom. He embraces the role of an educator in all aspects of his life, believing that the real strength lies in the ability to share knowledge and inspire others. “What makes a good chef is doing stuff over and over and over again. You get to the point to where you can educate other people; I think chefs are educators. And that’s when you become a chef, when you have the ability to take what you know and then teach it to somebody else.”

Patrick strongly believes in the adage, “Society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they will not sit.” This speaks volumes about his commitment to fostering a culture of lifelong learning. His belief is that when one acquires knowledge, one bears the responsibility of passing it on, thereby contributing to the greater good. His legacy will undoubtedly transcend the bounds of his personal achievements, as he continuously strives to inspire and educate others. “I’m an educator. A big part of my life is I try to let the students know that I’m a human being. I think that’s very, very important.”

Patrick’s story is more than just a journey through the world of culinary arts; it’s an ode to the power of lifelong learning, the importance of sharing knowledge, and the intersection of diverse passions. His life’s journey embodies a melody composed of varied notes—each representing different stages of his life and interests. The result? A harmonious symphony of a life lived to the fullest and dedicated to inspiring others.
Learn More

Watch the full interview on YouTube @localapodcast or your favorite podcast app. Just search for Locala Podcast. It airs August 18, 2023.

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Lisa Anderson