Local Chefs see 2016 Restaurant Gala from New Perspective

Dylan, Steven GalaEach year, Academy of Culinary Arts students learn firsthand what its like to create a successful black-tie event, from the chaos of the kitchen, to the hospitality side of serving guests at the annual Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala. Several ACA graduates are now working the Gala from a slightly different perspective. Dylan Bonilla ’15 of Egg Harbor City, represented the Academy of Culinary Arts two years ago as a student, but he returns this year, as chef for the Historic Smithville Inn.

Bonilla says, “To work at the Gala means a lot to me. I enjoy the night of seeing smiles, meeting people and helping raise money for scholarships for ACA students.” He was a multiple scholarship recipient and says, “If it wasn’t for that, I really don’t know how I would have attended college.”

The event has raised $3 million since 1984, with proceeds benefiting student scholarships at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College and Atlantic Cape Foundation operations.

Bonilla’s experience at the ACA has translated to his career in many ways. From kitchen terminology, to methods and techniques, he often revisits what he learned in the Academy classrooms.

“Chef Steven Cozzi really impacted me the most for my future. He was the educator for my Careme’s back-of-the-house class. He really showed me the rights, wrongs, do’s and don’ts when it comes to serving a la carte dinner. He pushed me to serve the best-looking plates that I could. Another one of my favorite experiences was in Chef Educator Vincent Tedeschi’s class. I learned how to carve ice sculptures, and it’s just something you don’t get to try often, so it’s something I’ll never forget. Going to ACA was the best decision I could have made. They showed me how to turn my love and passion of cooking into the career I love.”

Other Academy graduates participating in 2016 Gala are: Walter Knight ’93, The Washington Inn of Cape May; Adrienne Armenia ’08, Sofia’s in Margate; Karen Dalbora ’93, Icon Hospitality; Aimee Fischer ’15, Icon Hospitality; and Rebecca Leon ’07, Icon Hospitality.

Chef Steven Barile of Port Republic graduated 33 years ago from the ACA, the flagship class of the Academy. He remembers culinary students making their debut on campus Halloween of 1981, in their culinary whites, and people thought they were in costume, and not students.

“Today, the ACA is woven into the fabric of the college, as well as our community,” Barile says.

Barile’s passion for pastry has landed him in careers with Walt Disney World Company, Stephen Starr Organization, and now as pastry chef of Café Tazza, which he will be representing at the Gala this year. Barile has worked five Galas in the past ten years.

Barile concludes, “The industry has evolved over the years and we must evolve with it. We must be continuous learners, no matter how high up the ladder in life you climb you can always learn something from someone.”

The 33rd annual Atlantic Cape Community College “MISSION: POSSIBLE” Restaurant Gala takes place Thursday, March 24, in the Avalon Ballroom of Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, a new venue for the gala.

The annual event celebrates food with tantalizing hors d’oeuvres prepared by students at the Academy of Culinary Arts and the house specialties of 42 of the area’s best restaurants at a sumptuous dining experience. A dessert extravaganza, organized by Chef Deborah Pellegrino,’92, of Caesars Entertainment and Chef Michael D’Angelo, ’84, of the Academy of Culinary Arts, will complete the evening’s festivities, including tiered cakes, chocolate stations and delectable petit fours, and so much more. Cigars and cordials are also back by popular demand.

Guests will have the opportunity to dance the night away with live music from A Sharp Production, a nine-piece ensemble.

This year’s theme is “MISSION: POSSIBLE,” a play on the famous spy thrillers, with a focus on making scholarships possible for Academy of Culinary Arts students through Gala proceeds.

Tickets to the Gala are $225 a person and can be ordered by contacting Lori McIntyre at lmcintyr@atlantic.edu or 609-343-5691 or by visiting www.atlantic.edu/gala.

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