When Patrick Brennan, a 2010 graduate of Washington and Lee, received his associate’s degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, Calif., last Friday, Aug. 16, the identity of the commencement speaker had special meaning for him: his father, Ralph Brennan, head of the family’s New Orleans restaurant dynasty.
Patrick’s sister, Kathryn Brennan, also graduated from Washington and Lee, in 2007. And she also works for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, which comprises six restaurants (one at Disneyland) and catering. Both siblings studied business administration at W&L, excellent preparation for their careers. With his new degree—he’s the first Brennan to graduate from culinary school—Patrick will take his place behind the stove.
According to the Times-Picayune story about Ralph’s commencement address, Ralph “never urged Patrick or his two sisters to enter the restaurant business. But growing up in the city's most prominent restaurant family, it was hard to avoid the call to the kitchen. When Patrick was 8 or 9 years old, Brennan said, he started working with the pastry chef at the Red Fish Grill.”
Ralph told the paper of Patrick, "He did it on his own. I encouraged them to go to school. That was the most important thing."