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Academy of Culinary Arts alum returns to Atlantic Cape for molecular gastronomy collaboration

03/18/2022 | Media Contact: Claire Sylvester | (609) 343-4933
Carole Trace headshot

On a brisk February afternoon, Atlantic Cape alumna Carole Trace found herself back in the kitchens at the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing. She was a long way away from sunny San Diego, where she now lives and works, and wearing the white college chef's coat adorned with her name she often wore during her time on campus.

This day, however, instead of being there to learn, she was there to give the lesson.

Trace was recently invited to show off her prowess and create a molecular gastronomy dessert for Chef Annmarie Chelius’ Baking and Pastry class, a skill she refined working in a famed Chicago restaurant.

Trace’s journey to Chicago started shortly after she graduated with her culinary degree from the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College in 2016.

She was working a shift at the historic Franklinville Inn when a long-coveted dinner reservation opened up.

She didn’t hesitate.

The reservation was booked for the next night, so Trace and her mother hopped in the car and drove. Eleven hours later they arrived halfway across the country to dine at Alinea, a three-star Michelin Guide restaurant known for their molecular gastronomy fare and immersive dining experience.

Two weeks later, Trace was back at Alinea, this time for a job interview.

Trace said that none of that would have been possible if not for the skills, experience, and confidence she gained from her time as a student at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Academy of Culinary Arts.

“The biggest thing that I got from here – and this is what I encourage to others trying to get into the industry – is the ratio of students to teachers is much better,” Trace said. “My skills are far better and that’s what helped me get this far: that personal, one-on-one instruction and attention.”

Trace, 25, grew up in the Malaga section of Franklin Township (Gloucester County). She graduated from Delsea Regional High School in 2014 and began studying business administration at Rowan College of South Jersey while working as a hostess at the Franklinville Inn. She had always loved baking for other people, so she would often spoil her coworkers with her homemade treats. The chefs Trace worked with encouraged her to take her hobby further and apply to culinary school.

In September 2015, Trace enrolled at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape. During that time, Trace interned at Sweet Eats Bakery in Voorhees and worked her way through the kitchen at the Franklinville Inn.

Following that fateful dinner at Alinea, Trace took her shot. When the general manager made his way around the dining room, she asked for a job.

“And he was like, ‘Yeah, come back in two weeks,’” Trace explained.

She bought the best set of knives she could afford and began practicing for what would be a 32-hour audition over the course of two days.

“It was just pure adrenaline,” Trace explained.

To her own shock, she was hired.

During her time at Alinea, Trace delved into molecular gastronomy, which she described as “the science behind the foods, the ingredients that you use, and the different hydrocolloids that can affect a product.”

“So instead of making a cheesecake with cream cheese and sour cream and all different kinds of dairy, you can make a cheesecake with iota, make it in a blender, let it come to a boil and have the same thing,” Trace said.

“We were making food float, making food invisible, making food appear,” Trace said of her experience at Alinea. “It’s fun, it’s playful. It gets people excited.”

Using that knowledge, for her sugar-coated brioche doughnuts filled, Trace used a fig jam filling made with xanthan gum and served a drizzle of crème fraiche thickened with agar.

During her trip back to New Jersey last month, Trace said she was so happy to be back at Atlantic Cape and excited for another visit in the near future when she has a break from her position as Head Baker at Trident Coffee, where she is able to get back to her pastry roots.

Trace said her best memory of her time at the Academy of Culinary Arts was when she was sitting in a classroom and realized she was right where she needed to be.

The Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College is celebrating 40 years of educating future chefs and food service professionals. The ACA recently was ranked the No. 1 culinary school in New Jersey by Best Choice Schools.