DENVER (CBS4)– One man is achieving his dream of becoming a chef thanks to one school’s mission that is still going strong nearly 100 years later.

“Onion salt with a chicken, so I use a lemon juice,” explained David Diop. He was working on preparing food he would sell at an outdoor lunchtime festival on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

He makes maafe with beef and a peanut sauce and poulet yassa, a spicy chicken dish. His native French is fluent, his English getting stronger every day.

“Senegalese dishes and they’re very popular… and the French people get that from us,” he laughed about the origin of the food.

David is a chef and working to build his Pekine Grill. A native of Senegal, he grew up in a family in which his father was a doctor.

David Diop (credit: CBS)

David Diop (credit: CBS)

“A clinic, a private clinic, so after school I always go to help him.”

There was some expectation that David would follow.

But David loved the food, “I learned that from my mom and my sister.”

He emigrated first to Europe, then to the United States.

He landed in Denver married and began to take courses at Emily Griffith School. He needed to learn English and learn to be American.

“So when I came here first, my English wasn’t that good, so I needed to improve my English.”

He saw people cooking in the school’s culinary classrooms and soon he too was there.

“Great guy,” said instructor Chef Tim Inzano. “He was very detail oriented. That’s what makes a big difference is being detail oriented.”

David was also helpful and popular. Hardly quiet around the kitchen said Chef Tim.

David was curious, “I was so close to the chef team. Always try to talk to him… you try to find out a lot of things from him.”

David Diop with CBS4's Alan Gionet (credit: CBS)

David Diop with CBS4’s Alan Gionet (credit: CBS)

He soaked up the learning and shared.

“He wanted to know how and why everything worked the way it did,” said Chef Tim.

He’d catch David stopping and helping fellow students who looked to be struggling.

“He likes people, he loves helping people and most of all he likes to feed people, that’s what he likes to do.”

David is an Emily Griffith success story because he has initiative, but also a success story because of Emily Griffith. The school is part of the Denver School system and celebrating 100 years in 2016. The mission of Emily Griffith in 1916 was simple, create a place for all who wished to learn. It has helped give people practical training for jobs.

David provided his own motivation, Emily Griffith was the path he needed to find to try to find an American dream.

“I think he already has,” said Chef Tim. “I think he already has because of his kindness toward people.”

“They give me a lot of confidence they let you do things and see if you’re doing it right,” said David. “If you’re doing it right they’re going to encourage you, if you’re doing it wrong, they’re going to teach you how to do it better. That’s why I have that much confidence you can see.”

David showed it as he sold food at an outdoor festival at the Anschutz campus. People lined up for his Senegalese cuisine, including a woman who grew up in Senegal and pined for food from home.

“Perfect,” she said.

David is converting a truck so he can sell his food all over. It’s almost done. He is already making repeat customers. It’s an American dream, with the right education behind him.

Alan Gionet is anchor of the CBS4 Morning News and reports on a wide variety of issues and “Good Question” stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV.

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