Wednesday, October 4, 2023

ACCC Chefs Who ‘Stick It Out’ Find Sunccess in Classy Kitchens 3.29.2006

By Rick Racela

COURT HOUSE — Atlantic Cape Community College Culinary Arts students prove they can take the heat in the classroom and the kitchen.
Historically, almost 80 percent of culinary students would leave midway through the program due to the desire to become employed.
“Typically the students would become enamored by the amount of money they made while fulfilling the 400 hours of industry training,” explained Kelly McClay, assistant director of the culinary program, told the Herald March 22.
“They’d go work for a casino for a while and make some good money and the decision to return to class would be a difficult one,” said McClay.
But restaurants all around the nation are experiencing a boom, especially in upscale dining. Because of that numerous chefs’ positions are available.
Employers are also realizing that their biggest asset is hiring the right culinary staff, and degrees are becoming increasingly valuable in the highly-competitive field.
“If you want to move on to management or if you want to specialize, you need the full education with a degree,” she said.
According to McClay, “if the students stick it out now” they’ll graduate with a skill set that enables them to open the doors to most any kitchen.
She noted that the curriculum in the culinary program is “changing all the time” in order to incorporate new trends in the business. For example, baking and pastry courses have recently been expanded to include seven new classes as well as a degree option.      
It seems that students are beginning to realize that the service industry is becoming the fastest growing in the state. Current enrollment has grown from 200 to 297 full-time students and 24 part-time evening students.
Of the 75 students expected to graduate in May, McClay said that each student had at least three job offers.
“Recruiters are here, in the school’s atrium, almost three days a week,” she said. “The students have employers chasing them down as soon as they walk out of here with a degree.”
According to recent reports, an assistant chef, after a two-year program, could make from $30,000 to $35,000 a year. Starting cooks, who have just graduated from a vocational school, can earn $22,000 to $24,000 annually.
Despite the opening of 30-fine dining restaurants in Atlantic City area casinos, McClay said that they are not “the number one draw.”
“The casinos have really picked up their recruitment, but many students go all over to individual restaurants,” she added.
Some will choose to continue their education with four-year cooking schools. While McClay said the number of students transferring to a four-year school is small, the number does increase every year.
Recently two more cooking schools have signed transfer agreements with the culinary arts program.
New England Culinary Institute of Montpelier, Vt., which offers bachelor’s degrees in hospitality and restaurant management, and Johnson & Wales University of Providence, R.I., America’s largest cooking school and the alma mater of star chefs Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence, will give culinary graduates credits towards degrees for lower division courses passes at ACCC.
Contact Huggins at: (609) 886-8600 ext. 25 or

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