‘Cook Your Way to $18K’ Contest Winners Announced; Each Awarded $18,000 Scholarship to Academy of Culinary Arts

The heat was on as nine finalists, five for culinary and four for baking and pastry who had entered their recipes in the first-ever Academy of Culinary Arts’ “Cook Your Way to $18K” Contest, competed on Thursday, Aug. 2, at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Charles D. Worthington Atlantic City Campus.

man and woman smiling in picture

Ahmad Reed of Marmora and Maria Cotton of Williamstown share a smile moments after they learned they won the “Cook Your Way to $18K” Contest cook-off.

The winner for the culinary competition was Maria Cotton of Williamstown whose dish was a Thai-style Green Curry with Chicken and Shrimp, and the winner for baking and pastry was Ahmad Reed of Marmora who baked an award-winning Rose French Toast.

When asked what winning meant to her, Cotton replied, “In my 50s, I love the fact that I can do what I love to do, not necessarily what I have to do. And I took a stab at this cause I love food. I love to cook it, I love to serve it, I love making people happy with it.”

Reed remarked, “It means everything to me. I put a lot of hard work into my recipe and I was preparing for days leading up to this and to just see it pay off, its crazy. I’m still shocked.”

Judges for the contest included Willie Lewis, consulting chef of Kelsey’s in Atlantic City; Donna Albano, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management studies at Stockton University; and Jerry Beaver, director of food and beverage for Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino.

Each winner will be awarded an $18,000 scholarship to attend the academy for a Baking and Pastry or Culinary certification, all while gaining credits toward their associate degree from Atlantic Cape. This amounts to a fulltime ACA student’s first year of tuition and fees.

The contest was open to anyone who is currently in high school or had graduated with a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

A chef knife kit from the Follett Bookstore ($250 value) was awarded to the following seven runners-up who competed fiercely: Harry Dallmaer of Magnolia, Zane Berry of Monroeville, Mark Henry of Bridgeton, Noah Baji of Bellmawr, Angela Zhang of Egg Harbor City, Gavin Rodgers of Estell Manor and Jose-Antonio Certvantes Jr. of Brick.

There is still time to register for fall classes at the Academy of Culinary Arts. Classes begin Aug. 27. New culinary students should contact Judy DeSalvo at 609-343-5624 or desalvo@atlantic.edu to schedule a registration appointment. Registration hours are weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The college will be closed on Fridays, June 1 through Aug. 17.

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