Where can you sample pastries from 21 countries in 13 days? Or harvest greens in a hydroponic greenhouse?
How often can you taste artisan cheeses made fresh on the premises while nibbling crusty loaves of bread baked in an outdoor woodstove?
ACA students perfect their technique on a wide array of confections during the intense coursework.
Students at the Academy of Culinary Arts share these and many more one-of-a-kind educational experiences while studying in Atlantic Cape Community College’s premier program.
With nearly 35 years of experience educating future chefs, the Academy of Culinary Arts has launched the careers of thousands of food service professionals around the globe. In today’s epicurious culture, where tastes and food trends change at warp speed, it’s up to Chef Kelly McClay, Dean of the Academy of Culinary Arts, to ensure her students are prepared for an always evolving industry.
As a result, the Academy regularly adapts to remain relevant. Recent modifications include an enhanced charcuterie course and an elevated ice carving experience. The latter is spearheaded by Chef Educator Vincent Tedeschi, who spent one recent summer training with internationally acclaimed performance ice sculptor Peter Slavin in Philadelphia.
On the Rise
Much attention is focused on the Baking and Pastry degree curriculum, a program that is drawing increased interest as extreme cakes and decadent pastries take center stage on food shows and in restaurants. The ACA strives to make its program unique.
The hands-on Baking & Pastry degree program prepares students for careers in bakeshops, as cake designers or to own a bakery.
“Hands-on production is in everyone’s curriculum,” McClay says, “but in our program, the students have an opportunity to design a menu, create production charts, schedule employees, learn and train on a cash register, read a profit/loss statement, evaluate daily sales and forecast.”
This is all done in the new Retail Bakery Management class, added as the final course for graduating Baking & Pastry majors last fall. Developed by Chef Educator James Usilton, students use all of the skills they have honed during their training at the ACA and funnel it into Strudels, the on-campus bakeshop. Previously, the shop sold only the overflow product from other baking classes. Now, students write a menu and bake product daily, specifically with their customers in mind.
“They learn about display techniques and packaging options,” McClay said. “The goal is for the students to learn everything involved with a retail bakery operation.”
Baking & Pastry students bake the products and operate Strudels to gain practical experience in a new course.
Dorothy Burkett, 20, of Hammonton, was among the first to take the new class, and says the experience helped shape her perspective on her future.
“Being able to run a retail store and calculate what we needed for one day, and what prices to charge, gave me a good look into how I would run a bakery,” said Burkett, whose long-term goal is to design wedding cakes. “I realize I want more experience and time learning in other bakeries before I would consider working for myself.”
Another advanced course that debuted in fall 2014 is International Pastry Preparation. Under the direction of Chef Educator Mary Theresa McCann, students are taken on a whirlwind tour of pastries from around the world.
Chef Bruce Johns, Director of Culinary Operations, instructs students.
“We use authentic recipes. In 13 days, we visit 21 countries. Their world needs to be very global nowadays,” McCann said. “So we talk about current events and they research traditional desserts.”
The first group of students prepared the desserts for the Nouveau Beaujolais wine event and scholarship fundraiser in November. Their menu was a flavorful array of international delicacies including an ice cream gelato bar with Italian favorites, an Austrian strudel station, a Swiss fondue bar, Greek baklava and many other native desserts.
Technology in the Kitchen
Students are expected to know how to use cutting-edge technology and the latest equipment when they are working in restaurant kitchens, so the Academy regularly updates its own tools.
Students working front-of-the-house service in Carême’s, the student-run gourmet restaurant, are learning about coffee service on a new espresso machine. Other state-of-the-art equipment at their disposal includes blast chillers, a second Rational Self Cooking Center, Vitamix high performance blenders, and a cheese vat that will allow the school to broaden its curriculum by incorporating artisan-style cheeses.
Students maintain a kitchen garden and an organic greenhouse in order to have fresh herbs and vegetables in the teaching kitchens.
A hydroponic greenhouse at the new ACA location at the Caesars Entertainment Wing for Hospitality and Gaming Studies in Atlantic City will be up and running this year to grow greens for use in the classroom. This will augment the organic greenhouse and kitchen garden students maintain at the Mays Landing Campus and the share of locally grown vegetables the school purchases from Sea Salt Community Supported Agriculture in Galloway Township.
“We do that specifically so students can become familiar with organic produce and what is in our backyard at any time of the year,” McClay says. “It’s important that students understand the impact the food industry has on the environment and to minimize that impact.
“It’s also a hot topic in the industry. Our students know how to operate hydroponic equipment and develop a menu focused on seasonal and local ingredients, which sets them apart.”
As competition for culinary positions increases, the ACA’s ability to provide students with technical expertise as well as superior business skills makes its graduates sought after in the industry.
“They act like professionals, work as a team, and know how to speak to coworkers,” McClay says. “They understand what motivates people to get the job done.”
- Stacey Clapp
Whet Your Appetite
Interested in short-term training to get you started in the food service industry? The Academy of Culinary Arts now offers classes in its brand new, state-of-the-art training kitchens at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Atlantic City Campus.
Two 17-week options are available at the Caesars Entertainment Wing for Hospitality and Gaming Studies:
Culinary Training Program—Provides students with knowledge of various foodborne illnesses and their prevention; basic culinary terminology and skills; pantry production; usage and benefits of kitchen gardens; hot food production and short order cooking; preparation of stocks and sauces; cooking methods of meat, poultry and seafood; the fundamentals of baking; professional development; and resume writing.
Baking & Pastry Training Program—Teaches students basic culinary terminology and skills as they apply to the bakeshop; organization and scaling as it pertains to production of bread; leavening agents; proper mixing methods for crusts and cookies; cake decorating; plated desserts; and chocolate and sugar work.
Both 425-hour career programs offer participants hands-on opportunities to either launch a career in the hospitality industry or enhance existing skills for career advancement. Completion of either program provides participants ServSafe certification.
Courses begin throughout the year, and funding is available for unemployed and underemployed residents through the Atlantic and Cape May County One-Stop Center.
For more information, call Judy DeSalvo at (609) 343-5624.
- Stacey Clapp
A Delicious Future: Your Opportunity Starts Here
The Academy of Culinary Arts has produced talented chefs for nearly 35 years. Experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the ACA at an open house. For upcoming dates, visit http://www.atlantic.edu/aca/visit.htm.
For more information on the Academy, located at 5100 Black Horse Pike in Mays Landing, call (800) 645-CHEF, visit www.atlantic.edu/aca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.