Academy of Culinary Arts Awards Medals To New Chefs at May 14 Ceremony

men and women chefsThe Academy of Culinary Arts awarded culinary medals and certificates to 35 new chefs and baking and pastry professionals prepared with the latest culinary knowledge on Monday, May 14.

Twenty-three graduates honed their skills in the Academy’s Culinary Arts program, and 12 completed the Baking and Pastry program. One short-term specialization certificate in Baking and Pastry was awarded.

The awards ceremony was held in the Walter Edge Theater at the Mays Landing Campus, and honored the graduates with gold, silver or bronze medals or certificates based on their grade point averages and criteria established by the American Culinary Federation. Specialization graduates received certificates of completion. A reception at Careme’s, the on-campus, student-run gourmet restaurant, followed the ceremony.

Dr. Barbara Gaba, president of Atlantic Cape Community College, and Dr. Josette Katz, interim vice president of academic affairs, both spoke to the graduates about the importance of continuing their education and always maintaining their connection to the college and the academy, as well as congratulating them on such a momentous milestone in their lives.

male chef speaking at podiumGregory Zervas of North Wildwood was named valedictorian and winner of the Nathan Schwartz Award, which is presented to the top student of each graduating class. Zervas said, “The true journey begins now. The kitchens are tough, but we are tougher. Never give up on your goals and always love what you do.”

The keynote speaker was Grace Chow, vice president of Food and Beverage at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Chow advised graduates, “Always think for yourself. No one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to the next career move. There is no right or wrong answer. Don’t chase the money, the money will come. The most important thing is to choose something that will make you happy­– that you are passionate about waking up to do. ”

Samantha Bradley, Tyler Coupe, James Whelan and Briana Husak were recognized for their roles as officers of the Culinary Student Association and Baking and Pastry Club.

Chef Kelly McClay, Academy of Culinary Arts dean, closed the ceremony by encouraging graduates to give consideration on how they can have a positive impact on the industry when planning their career. “Think about ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Use local ingredients, they taste better. Be proud, be punctual and always remain a professional. If you always live up to your own standards, you will always be proud of your accomplishments.” 

Honorees, their hometowns (by county) and their awards are:


Alexandria Falciani, Hammonton—Silver, Baking & Pastry

Mary Anne Hills, Ventnor— Certificate, Baking & Pastry Specialization

Emily Hood, Hammonton—Silver, Baking & Pastry

Amiri Jones, Pleasantville—Certificate, Culinary Arts

Sharon Maurer, Egg Harbor Township—Gold, Baking & Pastry

Isabella McLaughlin, Brigantine—Gold, Baking & Pastry

Brendan O’Brien, Somers Point—Bronze, Culinary Arts

Christian Soto-Gonzalez, Atlantic City—Gold, Baking & Pastry

Maria Summerville, Mays Landing—Silver, Culinary Arts

Emely Wapnik, Pleasantville—Bronze, Culinary Arts

Ashley Vassallo, Folsom—Silver, Baking & Pastry



Morgan Thielman, Hainesport—Silver, Culinary Arts



Samantha Bradley, Berlin—Silver, Culinary Arts

Anthony Green, Glendora—Gold, Culinary Arts

Austin Pandza, Stratford—Silver, Culinary Arts

Christian Roman, Pennsauken—Silver, Culinary Arts



Micah Conley, Cape May Court House—Silver, Baking & Pastry

David Fellenbaum, Cape May Court House—Silver, Culinary Arts

Patrick Heaton, Wildwood—Gold, Culinary Arts

Brian Monroe, Del Haven—Bronze, Culinary Arts

Maurice Stanley, Ocean City—Bronze, Culinary Arts

Gregory Zervas, North Wildwood—Gold, Culinary Arts



Briana Husak, Vineland—Bronze, Culinary Arts, and Bronze in Baking & Pastry

Matthew Meandro, Millville—Silver, Culinary Arts

Charles Murphy, Vineland—Silver, Culinary Arts

Michael Nichols, Vineland—Bronze, Baking & Pastry



Alexandria Felicione, Mullica Hill—, Culinary Arts

Juliana Lleshi, Pitman—Silver, Culinary Arts

Sandra Kleva, Turnersville—Certificate, Baking & Pastry

Jaine Murzinski, Williamstown—Silver, Culinary Arts

Eric Weiss, Glassboro—Certificate, Culinary Arts



Taylor Callaghan, Little Egg Harbor—Gold, Culinary Arts

Tyler Coupe, Barnegat—Certificate, Culinary Arts

David O’Neill, Barnegat—Silver, Culinary Arts

Anyssa Perez-Crooks, Barnegat—Gold, Baking & Pastry

James Whalen, Toms River—Silver, Culinary Arts

The Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College recently was ranked the No. 1 culinary school in New Jersey by Best Choice Schools.

The ACA has been training future chefs for 35 years, and is accredited by the American Culinary Federation. For more information about the ACA, call 1-800-645‑CHEF, email or visit

Fall classes begin Aug. 27. Seats and scholarships are available. To register, call Judy DeSalvo at 609-343-5624 or

See more photos HERE.

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