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Patrick Dunlea

Patrick Dunlea


I've always loved to cook. Since I could first turn on the oven I was cooking for my family. Food was my passion. What my family didn't know was that I also had a passion for boys.

I had come out only six months before starting classes at the Culinary Institute of America (we call it the CIA, and yes, we've heard the jokes) in Hyde Park, N.Y. My goal was to start college as an out student, not as "Pat the closet case." My family was concerned about how I would be accepted in a new place. They would ask me, "What about your roommate and classmates?" and "Is the institute gay-friendly?"

The restaurant industry is not always the most welcoming environment for the LGBT community. Most gay people in the restaurant world work in the dining room--or as we like to say, "the front of the house." Working in the kitchen--the "back of the house"--is a very different experience. Sure, there are plenty of successful gay chefs, like Susan Feniger of Border Grill and Ciudad, but was I truly prepared to take the heat of the kitchen? How would a gay man be accepted on the line?

Shortly after starting college, I knew I would fit in just fine. The institute has a large and welcoming gay community. My first night someone asked me if I was OK with people being gay. When I informed him I was gay, he said, "Good, because we don't put up with homophobes here."

Since starting my training, I've experienced some great opportunities. I've been the group leader of my class, a resident assistant, and president of our LGBT alliance. Because I'm so active, I was asked to pose for the cover of the school's admissions book, and photos of me were included in the new edition of The Professional Chef--our flagship textbook.

The institute is famed as the world's premier culinary college. Not only does it offer the best food-service training in the world, the college prides itself on offering a professional and positive learning environment for all students--and I am proud to be a part of that vibrant community.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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