WCCC graduates enter school's culinary arts and hospitality hall of fame
As executive pastry chef at the Rolling Rock Club, Tammy Fuchs whips up sweet confections for private parties, dinners and catering engagements, even 27 pies for Thanksgiving dinner.
As an executive with Heartland Restaurant Group, Anthony Braun manages 650 employees at 28 Dunkin' Donuts restaurants and relies on a philosophy of trying to brighten each customer's day.
Both Westmoreland County Community College graduates were inducted recently into the college's Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality Hall of Fame.
As she donned a crisp, white chef's coat, Fuchs said her culinary education began at a young age and continues to this day.
She credits her mother, Sally Schultz, a whiz at “good, home-style” meals, and father, the late Robert Schultz, an outdoor chef, as her first instructors. With a WCCC scholarship, she took up a formal education in its baking and pastry program.
The learning continued as she made cakes at Christopher's Sweet Shop in Murrysville and “cranked out pastry after pastry.”
Now she's executive pastry chef at the Ligonier Township club, where she can roll pastry dough while watching deer meander past the window. Fuchs, 37, of New Alexandria has worked for 16 years at the Rolling Rock Club.
She relishes transforming a bushel of peaches into a fresh sorbet. She's known for flaky, buttery pie crusts enveloping seasonal fruit or cream pies — a specialty she's honed after baking hundreds.
“Just to make something from nothing ... taking the butter, sugar, flour and eggs,” she said. “If you're lucky, it's edible. If you're very lucky, it's beautiful too.”
Fuchs earned executive pastry chef certification through the American Culinary Federation's intensive screening process based on schooling, experience, a written test and a practice exam.
During the four-hour exam, Fuchs whipped up a Grand Marnier souffle, a vanilla bean panna cotta, a Spanish vanilla torte, a chocolate cake with butter cream and two dozen brioche pastries — “all of that in four hours where you're being stared at the whole time.”
Through the federation, Fuchs was named Pastry Chef of the Year in the northeast region last year.
She gives back to her alma mater as an adjunct faculty member who teaches two classes each semester on topics such as baking, decorating skills and specialty artistic techniques.
Fuchs credits her family, including her husband, Michael, and daughter Avery, and staff at the college and the Rolling Rock Club for their help.
Restaurant management maven Anthony Braun practices the “day maker” philosophy he preaches to 650 employees, constantly working to make a positive impact on somebody's day.
“At the end of the day, you're going to win with your people. Our crew members influence our guests' day,” he said. “The day's not finished until you've done something to influence someone's life in a positive fashion.”
In a holiday letter, he lauded his team's “amazing spirit, unwavering commitment and incredible work ethic.”
Braun, 49, of Pittsburgh graduated from WCCC in 1985 and continued his education at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Business School.
He served in executive-management capacities at several restaurant chains before becoming a partner with Heartland Restaurant Group, where he's chief operating and financial officer.
Braun oversees training, store construction, accounting, payroll, human resources and marketing at 28 Dunkin' Donuts stores across the region.
“I do everything but make the doughnuts,” he said.
Braun said the restaurant business was “infused in my blood early on.”
His late father, chef Jack Braun, helped to develop the community college's culinary apprenticeship program and served as president of the American Culinary Federation.
At 13, Braun took his first restaurant job as a dishwasher at the Lemon Tree, where his father was chef. With his salary, Braun bought his dad a coin with an image of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. His father later gave him back the coin, a passing of the torch of sorts.
Braun credits his father, his team, his alma mater and many others who have walked alongside him on his career path.
He remembers coming to WCCC as a “cautious and nervous” teenager. He cited WCCC as the place where he learned the importance of influencing staff.
“I have not lost track of that,” he said.
Rossilynne Skena Culgan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or email@example.com.