Success Stories

The Oakland Community College Culinary Studies Institute has helped set the course for diverse careers in the profession. Below are just a few examples or where our former students have landed.

Erich ChiecaErich Chieca

Chef Erich Chieca’s food industry career has spanned more than 30 years. Currently Erich is employed by Heritage Premium Meats as director of culinary sales (a division of Hormel Foods) working directly with national accounts and industrial ingredient customers. In addition, he operates a culinary consulting company known as “One Quick Chef, LLC” partnering with food companies and restaurants needing culinary support and sales support; specifically focused on new menu/product development and new sales growth.

Previously, Erich was employed with Lactalis Culinary, Awrey Bakeries, Sartori Foods, General Mills and Pillsbury. He worked in the positions of culinary director/corporate chef and national account culinary sales manager supporting product development, culinary ideation and sales management.

In addition, Erich held the position of executive chef for the Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Michigan; a private golf club once owned and operated by the PGA Tour. During his time with the PGA, Erich helped the team deliver three-food and beverage operation of the year awards by keeping the members happy with his culinary talents. The TPC also played host to the now retired Ford Senior Players Championship, a premier golf event for metro Detroit in the mid 90’s. Chef Erich and his staff were instrumental feeding the attendees, the players and their families.

A member of the American Culinary Federation and the Research Chefs Association, Erich has also continued his education multiple times at the Culinary Institute of America. He has lectured at Michigan State University, taught at Oakland Community College and has appeared at numerous food shows and programs throughout his career. Currently Erich is an advisor for the Oakland Community College Culinary Arts program and an active Research Chefs Association (RCA) member having served several years on the RCA’s Board. 

Erich graduated with a culinary arts and restaurant management degree from Oakland Community College in 1996. In reflecting upon his time at OCC he said, he would not be where he is today without the skills he learned there. “To all students in the food industry, look beyond the traditional roles in the industry, there are many opportunities in the areas beyond the typical ones you find in most restaurants, find what part of the industry interests you the most and go for it.”

Randy FinchRandy Finch 

OCC culinary arts alum and ice guru Randy Finch has designed and executed out-of-this-world ice sculptures with appearances on the Today show, Access Hollywood Live, CBS News, Dennis Miller Radio Show, E.S.P.N., CNN, TBS, Discovery Channel, and the Weather Channel to name just a few. As the owner of Ice Sculptures Ltd. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, his company has evolved from two chefs into a full spectrum ART entertainment source.  

Randy is proud of being recognized in the fine arts community for what is traditionally viewed a "Culinary" art. He creates sculptures at movie premieres, celebrity galas, concerts and sporting events. The projects are captured on Food Network’s award-winning primetime series, “Ice Brigade”. The show follows the team as they make awe-inspiring interactive creations like pool tables, bowling lanes, grand pianos, carousels, and mini-golf courses.

His other many notable accomplishments include co-authoring the only text book for Ice Sculpting the Modern Way, teaching seminars at several culinary schools including The Culinary Institute of America, and being featured on Ripley's Believe it or Not! and "Best in Ice" as the #1 facility globally. Randy has also been ice sculpting coach for the United States Coupe du monde Patisserie (Pastry World Cup) for more than 20 years.
Randy’s experience at OCC | “My experience at O.C.C. was instrumental in helping me to develop my management style. The instructors were able teach the cooks through their tasks. I consider myself a teacher, not a boss.”

Lindsey PritchardLindsey Pritchard

Lindsey graduated from Oakland Community College in 2014 with an associate in applied science-massage therapy degree and a baking and pastry art certificate.

While at OCC, Lindsey competed on the ice carving team and won several National Ice Carving Association (NICA) awards during various competitions. Most notably, she and fellow OCC Culinary Arts alum Ryse Swanson were the first all-girl team to win nationals for collegiate ice carving.

“I dragged my feet on graduating so I could ice carve longer,” Lindsey said.

“My instructors were great, and they can be a real asset for networking when you graduate,” she added. 

Fresh out of OCC, she worked at Love & Buttercream bakery while also working part-time at the Walnut Creek Country Club. A few years later she began working full-time at Walnut Creek Country Club as a pastry sous chef.

Lindsey is currently working with Ryse at Bella e Dolce, specializing in custom wedding cakes, pastries, and special event cakes serving the Metro Detroit area. 

Foodtastic Competition

Lindsey, Ryse and Bella e Dolce Owner Erin Sonntag were featured on Foodtastic on Disney+, an immersive global competition series in which highly skilled artists create extravagant scene work and larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of food. They were tasked with making foodscapes out of as many different food mediums as they could on a very large scale. 

“The whole experience was wild and incredibly fun! We got to meet a lot of other incredible food artists and see some cool techniques as well,” Lindsey said.

Sarah RougeauSarah Rougeau 

Sarah Rougeau graduated in 2003 from Oakland Community College (OCC), cum laude with a culinary arts degree after earning a silver medal in her first culinary salon. After graduation, she continued to take classes to maintain eligibility to compete, earning a spot with the OCC Ice carving team. In 2005, she entered her first competition as a professional and earned a silver medal in Culinary Salon.

Sarah started her professional career with an internship position at the Country Club of Detroit under the tutelage of Executive Chef Scott O’Farrell and Executive Sous Chef Brian Beland, now a certified master chef. In 2007, Brian Walsh, certified executive chef, made room on his culinary seals team at Oakland Hills Country Club where Sarah was set on the fast track working her way through every station and shift in the first six months. In 2008 OHCC hosted the PGA Championship. During this tournament, Sarah took on a team leader position managing Tiger Woods’ Champions dinner amongst other high touch events. During her 13-year tenure at OHCC, Sarah held several positions including banquet/sous chef, extern coordinator and executive sous chef. On two separate occasions, for a total of about four months, Sarah served as the executive pastry chef at OHCC, making sure that the daily business of the bakeshop went off without a hitch.

In 2012, Sarah had the honor of competing in the World Culinary Olympics; alongside her long-time mentors, earning a silver medal. Shortly before competing for Chef of the Year, Sarah completed all requirements for the Certified Executive Chef certification.

In 2016 OHCC was presented with the opportunity to host the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship. As executive sous chef at the time, Sarah was tasked with coordinating all temporary staff, rental equipment, calculating product needs, coordinating daily prep lists, and keeping everyone on task.

In 2019 Sarah took a leap and moved to South Florida to join Executive Chef Daniel Vallone (formerly of OHCC) at the Loxahatchee Club; a premiere platinum boutique club in Jupiter, FL. This small club has presented a whole new set of challenges including a full club renovation and building a team from scratch, while rebuilding and expanding a seasonal club culture into one that will be able to sustain more of a year-round model. 
Outside of work, Sarah serves as a board member for the Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association and has donated her time teaching families through the Cooking Matters program.

Maryse SwansonMaryse Swanson

Maryse (Ryse) Swanson attended the Culinary Studies Institute at Oakland Community College and has put skills learned in the program to good use. She credits OCC with sparking her passion for all things culinary, and in particular, food art. 

Since attending OCC, Ryse said she is proud to have made thousands of “pretty dang cool cakes.” She has competed professionally and won awards in both pumpkin and ice carving. A pastry chef at Walnut Creek Country Club for 12 years, her accomplishments include winning Michigan pastry chef of the year in 2018 and central regional pastry chef of the year in 2019 (while 5 months pregnant). Ryse also competed for national pastry chef of the year in Orlando, Florida in 2019 with a 6-week-old baby.

Ryse currently works with OCC alum Lindsey Pritchard at Bella e Dolce, specializing in custom wedding cakes, pastries, and special event cakes serving the Metro Detroit area. 

Ryse, Lindsey and Bella e Dolce Owner Erin Sonntag were featured on Foodtastic on Disney+, an immersive global competition series in which highly skilled artists create extravagant scene work and larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of food. They were tasked with making foodscapes out of as many different food mediums as they could on a very large scale. 

“It was amazing, and so much fun, and very rewarding to walk away knowing we built something that I was so ridiculously proud of,” Ryse said.

Kacy WolframKacy Wolfram

Growing up in the hospitality world, with her dad being a certified executive pastry chef, Kacy fell in love with hospitality at a young age and knew it was her passion in life.

In 2019, she started on her career path by graduating with a degree an associate in applied science - restaurant management degree from Oakland Community College. During her time at OCC, Kacy competed on the Restaurant Service team through SkillsUSA. This competition included table setting, hosting, professional wine service according to the standards of the Court of Master Sommeliers, table side service (making guacamole and/or caesar salad) and serving the table from start to finish. Kacy won the state competition in March 2019 and proceeded to compete against 42 other states at the national level in Louisville, Kentucky and won in June 2019. After competing, she was a trainer and worked with OCC students and surrounding high school students who were training to compete in the Restaurant Service competition. Kacy currently volunteers as a high school judge for the Restaurant Service competitions.

While at OCC, Kacy worked at Baronette Renaissance Hotel & Toasted Oak Grill and Market as a server. This fulfilled her internship requirement for the Restaurant Management program. Her internship led to a promotion where she served as banquet supervisor running the events, weddings and parties from set up to tear down. Soon after, Kacy was promoted to assistant outlet supervisor where she oversaw both banquets and the Ala Carte restaurant. In January, 2022 she fulfilled a childhood goal becoming dining room manager at Meadowbrook Country Club, where she runs the day to day operations of the Ala Carte restaurants and the staff. 

Kacy is studying for the Level 1 Sommelier Exam. She was also accepted into “Batonnage” a program that opens up conversations on women in the wine world. She is paired with an industry professional to help give advice on how to be successful in this industry of work and wine.

Kacy says she is extremely grateful for her time at OCC. If she could give one piece of advice, it would be to get involved! “The more you put yourself into, the more experiences you get, more knowledge you obtain, and the more people you meet and network with.” She adds that the culinary program is challenging both mentally and physically but is extremely rewarding. Even years after graduating, Kacy still gets excited to share her professional successes with the chefs at OCC and fellow colleagues.