by Diane VanDyke
Two Montgomery County Community College Culinary Arts students received $1,000 scholarships each from the Delaware Valley Bailliage, a local chapter of the prestigious La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, at its annual Holiday and Inductions Black Tie Dinner in December 2010 held at Georges Perrier’s Le Bec-Fin, Philadelphia, Pa.
Scholarship recipients Brianna Ninni and Brittany Uppole are studying under instructor Stephen M. O’Donnell, an American Culinary Federation Certified Executive Chef and Approved Certification Evaluator and a Fellow of the American Academy of Chefs.
“These students are passionate and have a sincere interest in pursuing careers in the food service and hospitality industries,” said O’Donnell. “When recommending students for the scholarships, I look for students who have good grades, attendance, and participation, and who are willing to do research on their own. Brianna and Brittany have professional demeanors. They pay attention to detail and come to class prepared and ready.”
Brianna got involved in baking when she was about 12 years old and took Wilton cake decorating classes. She credits her grandfather Robert Gebhard as her inspiration for cooking and baking.
“He is a great cook who spends a lot of time in the kitchen and enjoys sharing his passion with others,” she said.
Prior to enrolling at the College in the fall of 2010, Brianna attended Immaculata University for two years studying nutrition and dietetics with the goal of becoming a registered dietician. However, after working as a dietary aide, she realized she wanted to be involved in the hands-on preparation of food.
“Cooking is very exciting and you can be extremely creative, but I love to bake,” she said. “I like being able to try new recipes and then work on them and modify them to perfection. I also enjoy being able to pay close attention to details and that is really important in baking and pastry work.”
After graduation in 2012, her dreams include becoming a head pastry chef in a hotel or restaurant or owning her own baking and pastry shop.
Brittany also became involved in cooking at an early age since food was the main focus of many of her family gatherings.
“I prefer baking because it is more exact than cooking,” she said. “Also, I have a huge sweet tooth, so I like to make things I enjoy eating. I guess you could say my specialty is cheesecakes. I have the most practice making them, and I am always asked to bring a cheesecake to holiday dinners.”
After graduating in 2012, Brittany plans to work in a bakery and ultimately open her own bakery business.
“Chef O’Donnell is a great instructor and his teaching methods are very effective,” Brittany said. “I never thought I could learn so much in one semester.”
“Chef O’Donnell is also a great reference,” Brianna added. “He is well connected in the culinary community and has so many resources available to him. He is very willing to help all of his students.”
O’Donnell is a longtime member of the Delaware Valley Bailliage. Founded in 1248 in Paris, France, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is the world’s oldest international gastronomic society. This international guild of chefs was disbanded for a time but then reinstated by three chefs in 1950 to promote the pleasures of the table—fine food, good wine and camaraderie.
Each year the society sponsors young chef and sommelier international competitions while the Chaîne Foundation provides scholarships for students in these fields.
The scholarship award was part of a multi-anniversary celebration, since 2010 marked the 10th anniversary of Del-Val Chaîne, the 50th anniversary of La Chaîne in the United States and the 40th anniversary of Le Bec-Fin.
Montgomery County Community College’s Culinary and Pastry Arts 60-hour program prepares students to be immediately employed in the ever-growing food service industry or to easily transfer into bachelor’s degree programs at various institutions, including The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, Drexel University and Johnson & Wales University.