CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – Julian Johnson spent the past week learning about cooking.
The eighth grader at West Creek Middle School wants to be a businessman but loves to cook. “My mom came up to me and asked me if I would like to take this cooking class,” Julian said. “I certainly do,” he told her.
Prior to this course, Julian learned how to cook the perfect omelet. But he has now expanded his menu. “My favorite dish we learned to cook this week was salmon,” he said.
Julian’s new salmon skills came thanks to the Cooking the Wright Way summer camp program provided by Hell’s Kitchen participant Sterling Wright.
Wright, a native of Nashville, is the nephew of Clarksville resident Sharon Kaye Edwards, organizer of the I Am Invisible Bullying Suicide program.
Wright said the camp is designed to provide children with an outlet for anger, empower them to serve their families and communities, and teach them to “cook with love.”
I am invisible
Edwards said she founded the nonprofit in 2018.
She said her brother died when she was young and it had a big impact. “The pain I felt when I lost him – everyone listened to the adults, but they forgot my pain.” Adding to the pain was being bullied as a child. Struggling with her emotions, she was hospitalized a number of times.
This experience led her to build a team of people who help children deal with their own pain. “We try to empower the kids so they know there’s nothing they can’t do,” she said.
Cooking the Wright Way was designed to give kids another outlet for their anger.
“There are many ways kids can deal with their anger — it can be art, music, reading, or even cooking,” she said.
Cooking the Wright way
Wright said that in his youth he was thrown into cooking. “Father came home from work one day and said, ‘Son, you’re learning to cook better because women don’t cook anymore,'” he said.
This training, born out of necessity, led to a life as a chef and eventually to the cook-off TV show Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey.
Wright said he did not sign up for Hell’s Kitchen, where he was a contestant during season 13, which aired in 2014. “Someone signed me up for this. I didn’t know I was going to be a fan favorite,” he said, noting that his cooking has taken him to places he never expected, such as cooking for P. Diddy.
A few years later he was working at a hotel in Nashville with his friend Brandon Williams.
“My brother Brandon was going through a tough time. I said, “Well, let’s just stop.” So we quit that day. Just walked out, no money, no plan, no nothing,” Wright said.
Wright has always found relief in the kitchen. “No one can disturb me while I’m cooking. I use my pain (to help someone else),” he said.
Wright and Williams developed Cooking the Wright Way and developed their own curriculum to provide teens with the same stress relief.
“The whole point is to get kids creative,” Williams said.
Wright brought some traditions from Hell’s Kitchen into the program, such as being presented with an apron during graduation.
The first course was held at Amy Grant’s ranch near Nashville. “She wanted us to graduate for our first culinary program with her,” Williams said.
Extension of the team
Clarksville chef Robin Little and her son Brandon Little were part of the team last week, with the sessions taking place at the Emmanuel Life Center at 303 Fairview Lane.
“We all have four different personalities,” she says, laughing.
“This team is just getting started,” Williams said. “They ask if we will have more classes in Clarksville, I say we will have 100 more classes in Clarksville, Nashville, Murfreesboro and the surrounding areas to improve the community and the state.
“We want this to catch wind with certain commissioners and politicians. We’ve been here for five days planting seeds, watering and tending,” Williams said.
So far it seems to be paying off, at least for Julian.
“I was also trying to learn how to make a puree,” Julian said. Williams said Julian used some fresh green beans that were donated to the class by a local farmer.
Julian graduated last week with several other students, each given their own apron. These included Ashanna Baxter, Alissa Carter, Avrianna Hughes, Donavan Irby, Taelyn Jemison, Julian Johnson, Malaisha Johnson, Nehemiah Wilcox, Mateo Lugo, Emmirra Oliver, Kinley Weber, Charles Williams, Ke’Ann Wysinger, Bry’Dunn Wysinger, Sha’ Niayha Wysinger, Magnolia Bracey and Milan McCormick.
Visit the I Am Invisible Mobbing Suicide website for more information.