Alumni Spotlights

Emily Kraus,’04: A Dream Come True

October 15, 2014 by Lisa M. McMahon, MA'09

Emily Kraus, ’04, grew up watching her grandmother, mother and aunts cook and host parties, dreaming of a career in which she could entertain others in a similar fashion. That dream came true – today, she is operations manager for Wolfgang Puck Catering.

Emily chose Niagara University to pursue her dream because of the beauty of the Niagara campus, the energy and passion of Dr. Gary Praetzel, then dean of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and the college’s potential for growth and excellent placement rate for its graduates.

It proved to be a wise decision. During her undergraduate years, the college completed a renovation, offering new amenities including a conference and dining facility with a lobby, a reception area, and a teaching kitchen. Being able to work in a kitchen is something most front-of-house employees never experience, Emily notes.

The college also launched an internship program with the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel, and Emily, who had been working there as a hostess in one of the restaurants, was selected to participate. The experience enabled her to work in all of the casino’s food and beverage departments, and led to her first job – a stewarding supervisor position with the organization.

“That was a fantastic opportunity,” she says. “The stewarding department of any hospitality operation is looked at as the backbone because everyone relies on you.”

Emily remained with the casino for nearly 10 years, moving quickly into an assistant banquet manager position, where she learned from experienced managers and executives from around the country, assisted in developing training programs, and spent a month helping to open the Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino. In March 2012, she reached one of her professional goals when she was named manager of the year.

Two months later, she left the casino for California.

“I wanted to be somewhere where new trends are happening and where new ideas are coming from,” she explains.

Emily worked several jobs in Los Angeles before being hired for her current position with the catering division at Wolfgang Puck in January 2014, a job she didn’t know existed until a friend suggested she would be an asset to the catering team. Since then, she has assisted with events as diverse as a 24-person sit-down dinner in a client’s home to the Oscars’ Governors Ball. One of the first events she was involved with was the sit-down meal during the Screen Actors Guild Awards, a star-studded event that honors performers from both film and television. Although she was “up close next to some of the most famous celebrities in the world,” during the event, she didn’t find it difficult to keep it professional. “We’re all just doing a job,” she says.

And yes, she’s met Wolfgang, too. “He’s very charismatic, passionate about food and passionate about what we do,” she says.

Emily, too, is passionate about her work.

“I go in every single day so thankful,” she says. “What I get to do now –– whether it’s in someone’s home and it’s a party for 24 people, or a party for 150 people, or doing an event for a couple thousand people –– is like I’m hosting my own party every day and getting paid for it.”