East Culinary Arts teacher takes talents to Food Network


Heidi Kwak ('24)

Fehder poses for a photo in FO-70 —where she teaches Culinary Arts I and II

Featured in Eastside November 2021 issue

Diane Fehder (‘98) wasn’t heading towards the culinary room when she was a student navigating the halls of Cherry Hill High School East. She was walking towards different places, different escapes. The theatre, painting classes, FOP meetings, and cheerleading practice. As she left East, she knew that she wanted to be a dancer.

Yet, if a student were to walk into F0-70 today, they would see her there. Even with a path that turns back to where it started, the way she describes it is entirely linear. Maybe because she knows that it turns with the force of a focus, a passion, or even stronger, a love. What she had.

“I love to bake,” Fehder said. Well, not Fehder. Chef Di.

Though she originally wanted to be a dancer when she was entering Montclair State University, Fehder switched her major to fashion in hopes for more stability. After graduating, she moved to New York City, a city that she knew could breathe life into her dream of making wedding dresses. Fully consumed with one dream, unbeknownst to Fehder, she was surrounded by another one. While working in the city, she was, perhaps by fate, present everyday in the same building as the French Culinary Institute, now known as the International Culinary Center. It took her time, though, to discover a future in it.

“I was working in New York City, at a wedding magazine called The Knot. And I realized I didn’t want to sit behind a desk anymore and that I wanted to create wedding cakes.”

She didn’t know how it was going to go; she knew she was taking a major leap. Yet, she knew that it was a leap backed by her utmost faith. Head first, she enrolled into the International Culinary Center. In culinary school, she realized that she didn’t only love making cakes, she loved making everything. A senior pastry chef instructor at the school, Chef Toni Lynn Dickinson, soon formed a close bond with her that outlasted Fehder’s graduation from the center.

“I think that she taught me time management in the kitchen, with a firm, but nurturing attitude towards it… Another thing she taught me [was] that if she didn’t know the answer to something, she would tell me she didn’t know and then she would figure it out,” Fehder said.
After graduating from the culinary center, Fehder was determined to grow as a chef. She worked at Alice’s Tea Cup in New York City and then moved to London where she got experience with Peggy Porschen, a celebrated cake designer from the UK. Fehder then came back to New York City where she continued to build on her pastry techniques. After leaving the city, her direction turned to Cinnaminson, New Jersey. She began to work at The Merion where she became the Executive Pastry Chef.

Fehder knew that her path to becoming a chef was the most important thing to her. But once she was a chef, other opportunities came to light – opportunities on Food Network, for example.

In February of 2013, her team, Tre Artista, competed on Food Network’s “Sugar Dome,” where they won first place.

“When I was on Sugar Dome, it was really cool because that was the first time [going on Food Network]. And then we won… But the best experience was with my culinary instructor [Chef Toni,] on… Sugar Rush Christmas. Because she’s my mentor, my friend, and to ask her to be on the show with me was really really cool,” she said.

On Netflix’s Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 1, Episode 5: “Here comes Santa Claus,”) Fehder and Dickinson made history on the show by being the first team to win all three competitive rounds. Fehder said she doesn’t handle timed pressure very well, but wants to be as prepared as she possibly can be. Her friend from Sugar Dome is known to tease her for having too many lists on Google Docs.

“[With Food Network], you’re not going to be able to charge a million dollars for your cakes [and] it’s not going to bring you tons of more business, or even credibility, especially in the industry. It’s more about the people, the connections… it’s also a great water cooler conversation,” she said.

When someone takes the time to tell her they’ve seen her on Food Network, it is very humbling. It is also very exciting, especially when it comes from a student – a student that sees a future for themselves in her.

In 2019, after realizing it was taxing on her family, she decided to leave her position as Executive Pastry Chef and start teaching at Rowan College at Burlington County in the Culinary Arts Program. Two years later, she continues to combine her passion for culinary arts with teaching at Cherry Hill East, teaching Culinary Arts I, and next semester Culinary Arts I and II.

Fehder decided to stop making cakes with the start of the new school year so she can focus on making her course and curriculum special. She wants students to want to be in her classes. When a student shows her what they have made, or when a student makes an entire presentation on why they want to learn how to make Portuguese egg cups, that is what is rewarding. It’s when students have a fire, the same fire she has.

“Go seek out opportunities and don’t be afraid to do that. The greatest opportunities for learning experiences may not be here in Cherry Hill. I moved to London, I lived in New York City, I moved all over,” she said.

“I chose to come back.”