Academy of Culinary Arts Offers a Sweet Degree Program

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Plusone Email


The Academy of Culinary Arts is helping students whip up some sweet career options − literally − with the growing Baking & Pastry degree program.

The ACA introduced this as a standalone degree in 2006, and the program has continued to rise ever since, for a variety of reasons.

“With all the attention the TV networks were giving to this, with shows like ‘Cake Boss’ and ‘Cupcake Wars,’ students were asking for new classes,” said Chef Kelly McClay, dean of the ACA. “Plus, there are a sufficient number of job opportunities in product research and development at companies like Pillsbury, Sara Lee, Nestle, Campbell’s and others.”

Unlike other careers in the food industry, this involves normal working hours, in a variety of settings.

“There are careers for cake decorators, for wedding and other special occasion cakes,” McClay said. “Wegmans has two full-time cake decorators on staff. Most grocery stores have people responsible for inventory and decorating cakes, as well as restaurants, caterers, hotels and resorts.”

What’s New in the Oven at ACA

There have been a number of exciting new developments with the Baking & Pastry program, including new courses and new equipment.

The Academy launched Principles of Baking Artisan Breads, with coursework centered on a massive, world-class woodstove acquired in summer 2013.

“The students work with organic grains and mill their own flour,” McClay said. “It’s a three-day process. Students learn to make display breads.”

The ACA also offers a new Retail Bakery Production and Management class, and in time for fall 2014, will renovate and repurpose Strudels, a retail store at the Mays Landing Campus that sells excess baked goods students create in class.

“Students will actually learn how to run a business there,” McClay said.

Baking Up Real World Success

The ACA has helped the careers of many students, both past and present.

Not only did 2003 husband and wife graduates Eric and Sheila Tavarez go on to open a successful bakery (Simplicity Desserts in Voorhees), they employ two current ACA Baking & Pastry students: Samantha Cole and Heather Krupinski.

They were introduced through ACA Chef Educator Ruth Latorre, whom Eric and Sheila reached out to when they needed to hire more staff.

They all agree that the ACA offers a superior education and the skills they needed to be successful.

“Their classes were set up really well,” Eric Tavarez said. “You go over the basics in the beginning. Each block builds on something you learned from the previous block. It was 90 percent hands-on. Every day there was a lecture that was brief, and then you got to make the products. What was really helpful is that all of their instructors were very open. You could approach them for anything.”

Krupinski and Cole also cited the real-world training and personal attention the chef educators afford students as among the many reasons why they love the ACA.

“You get to learn all the different techniques and receive classical training, plus the chefs explain what to do in the industry to get things done quicker,” Krupinski said. “We have the exact same thing in my job. You have a production list with a deadline. You have to have it done by a certain time in a bakery or restaurant,” she said.

“The chefs here at ACA are extremely passionate and their mission is to prepare us for the real world after we graduate,” Cole added. “They provide us with all of the skills it takes to be successful in the industry.

“I learned so much during my first semester here from baking to torting and decorating cakes, making pastry creams, buttercreams, making a variety of breads and show pieces, some of which I had never heard of until I came to ACA,” Cole said. “I’ve also learned how to create my own formulas, which is an exceptional skill to have. I’m constantly striving to be better, and this school is helping me do that.”

Alissa Wolf

A Delicious Future: Your Opportunity Starts Here

Experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the Academy of Culinary Arts at an open house. For upcoming dates:


For more information on the Academy, located at 5100 Black Horse Pike in Mays Landing, call 1 (800) 645-CHEF, visit or email

The ACA has produced talented chefs for more than 30 years.

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Plusone Email