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Academy of Culinary Arts Awards Two Vincent DeFinis Scholarships

12/05/2022 | Media Contact: David Zuba, Public Relations Manager and Copywriter | (609) 343-4933
ACA student Julio Gomez IV during cooking competition

MAYS LANDING — Atlantic Cape Community College’s Academy of Culinary Arts program awarded two scholarships to freshmen Baking & Pastry major Janelle Canion and Culinary Arts major Julio Gomez IV during the Vincent DeFinis Restaurant Gala Scholarship cooking competition on Friday, December 2 on the Mays Landing campus.

“Congratulations to our winners. I want you to know how proud I am of all of you,” an emotional Chef Joseph Sheridan, interim director of the Academy of Culinary Arts and Hospitality said after announcing the winners. “You are representing exactly what we want our students to be and I thank you for that.”

Both Canion and Gomez IV were overcome with excitement and emotion at the news.

“This scholarship really helps out a lot because my dad just had surgery and he’s not working, plus I had extra classes this semester and it was a lot more money, so this definitely helps,” said Canion, a resident of Upper Deerfield Township. “This is awesome and very exciting. It was very fun to do my first actual baking competition. I didn’t think I was going to get it. I was really surprised.”

Janelle Canion

The scholarships will cover the winning students’ tuition and fees for their sophomore year of studies within the Academy of Culinary Arts program.

“This scholarship gives me the chance, coming from a single mother, to go to school and it relieves me and my mom of the stress. It’s a great opportunity,” said Gomez IV, a resident of Vineland. “It makes me feel proud because I was able to let people taste a bit of my culture and what I grew up with.”

This year, 17 freshmen applied for the DeFinis scholarship. Six finalists - Gomez IV, Gelasia Nurse and Lola Sarni in Culinary Arts along with Canion, Genesis Ochoa and Alexias Blaine in Baking and Pastry - were selected by Academy of Culinary Arts faculty members after reviewing each application anonymously.

Each finalist prepared his or her own version of bread pudding and soup, respectively. The students were evaluated on taste (presentation, portion and flavor) and kitchen skills (food handling, organization, culinary technique and ingredient utilization).

The tasting evaluators were Dr. Denise Coulter, Atlantic Cape Dean of Professional and Liberal Studies; Emily Smith, Atlantic Cape 2018 alumnus and Pinelands Recovery Center Chef; and Larry Smith, Executive Sous Chef at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City. Atlantic Cape Chef Educators Ruth LaTorre and Linda Wohlman oversaw the student’s cooking and baking preparations.

To the runners-up, Sheridan added words of support. “Make sure you apply for everything (scholarships) that comes down the line because you get better at the application process and you increase your chances of winning.”

Each year, nearly a quarter of a million dollars is raised for culinary and hospitality scholarships, such as the Vincent DeFinis scholarship, at the Annual Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala, the culinary program’s largest fundraising event. DeFinis began in the hotel industry in 1932 and worked in many food and beverage departments of service under various Ritz-Carlton Hotel System European chefs. DeFinis also served in the Air Force as food supervisor with the Eighth Air Force Service Command during World War II. DeFinis passed away in 2007.

Visit for more information on the Academy of Culinary Arts program.

View photos from this event



About Atlantic Cape Community College

Atlantic Cape is a comprehensive two-year community college serving the residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties. The college offers over 40 career, transfer and workforce development programs to more than 8,000 students annually at three campuses in New Jersey: Atlantic City, Cape May Court House and Mays Landing.