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Atlantic Cape Restaurant Gala raises $240K to benefit culinary students

04/01/2022 | Media Contact: Claire Sylvester | (609) 343-4933
Academy of Culinary Arts students gather on the dance floor to present a check for the funds raised at the 39th Atlantic Cape Restaurant Gala March 31, 2022 at Harrah's in Atlantic City.

ATLANTIC CITY — An astounding $240,775 was raised at the 39th annual Atlantic Cape Restaurant Gala, a scholarship fundraiser for students in the Academy of Culinary Arts.

“This year’s Gala was the second highest grossing since its inception. We are incredibly grateful to Harrah’s, and the restaurant, hospitality and gaming community for supporting the event and the students attending Atlantic Cape’s Academy of Culinary Arts,” said Maria Kellett, Associate Director of the Atlantic Cape Foundation and dean of Atlantic Cape Community College’s Cape May County campus. “Although our industry partners are facing challenges of their own as they recover from the pandemic, their commitment to Atlantic Cape has been nothing short of remarkable. Additionally, the response from our corporate sponsors and guests has also been overwhelmingly positive.”

Since it began in 1983, the Atlantic Cape Restaurant Gala has raised well over $3.8 million for scholarships for students attending the Academy of Culinary Arts, which is currently celebrating its 40th year.

On Thursday, March 31, guests dined, danced and dazzled as the Gala, themed “Immersion,” returned indoors at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City.

This year’s Gala featured more than 40 area restaurants, businesses, bakeries, wineries, breweries and distilleries. The Dirty Dance Band lit up the dance floor and ACA alumnus Peter Slavin wowed attendees with his ice sculpting demonstration.

“It’s been a rough two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the all of the sponsors, participating restaurants and businesses, committee members and patrons have really showed up this year to support Atlantic Cape,” said Gala Co-Chairwoman Terry Budd, a member of the Atlantic Cape Foundation. “This is a great comeback event for the Foundation and such a great success. I want to thank everyone for coming together for the good of the students and to raise thousands for scholarships.”

This year’s Gala planning committee was also co-chaired by Cheryl Pivola, 1st Vice President of the Foundation Board, who passed away in early March. Pivola, 53, of Somers Point served on the Foundation Board since 2013 and was a tireless advocate for Atlantic Cape. The Gala committee paid tribute to Pivola and dedicated the event in her honor Thursday.

The Gala each year also honors those who give back to the college. Honorees for 2022 were retired ACA dean Chef Kelly McClay and, community honoree, the Mullock Family of Cape May, whose philanthropic efforts over the years have benefited not just the Atlantic Cape community, but the entire region.

“I am humbled to be receiving this honor. The Academy of Culinary Arts holds a very special place in my heart. There is a tremendous sense of pride in having witnessed the efforts and successes of so many students who have gone on to become amazing culinary professionals,” McClay said. “The academy was founded to support the local industry and that we did, but our graduates have gone way beyond the borders of South Jersey.”

“I am honored and know this is attributable to volunteers, workers, friends and family,” said Mullock family patriarch, Robert “Bob” Mullock. “I hope you can see the great community in which we live and the extensive achievements of those in this room and in our towns. Please continue to contribute to Atlantic Cape Community College charitable projects that bind us together as a community.”

Several of the Academy of Culinary Arts students, who benefit directly from the Gala, were in attendance, preparing and serving food for the guests.

In addition, the Gala recognized ACA alumni in a slideshow presentation that played throughout the evening.

“As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape and at this year’s Gala, we recognize that we have graduated many outstanding chefs, who have gone on to work locally and around the state, as well as around the country, and even around the globe,” Atlantic Cape President Dr. Barbara Gaba told guests. “Our alumni are not only great chefs, and experts in their fields, but more importantly, leaders and role models as well. I couldn't be prouder of their success.”

Three lucky winners shared $11,300 in the 2022 Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala 50/50 Raffle, sponsored by the Atlantic Cape Community College Foundation, which raised a total of $22,600. The remaining $11,300 in raffle proceeds go toward emergency funds for students and student programming.

Next year’s Atlantic Cape Gala will be the 40th annual event for the Foundation. Stay tuned for more information.

Atlantic Cape Restaurant Gala 2022