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Gala Gourmet at Atlantic-Cape


The 30th annual Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala will feature delectable fare from Academy of Culinary Arts students and more than 50 top area restaurants.

By Frank Gabriel
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 7, 2013

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Thirty years ago, a little community college in the woods of southern New Jersey began hosting an upscale restaurant gala featuring the cuisine of many of the region’s finest restaurants, while simultaneously showcasing upcoming kitchen talent from their nascent Academy of Culinary Arts.


What began as an event attended by about 350 persons has since grown consistently according to John Varalli, a founding member of the Steering Committee for the Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala.


“We sell out every year with nearly one thousand guests,” says Varalli, longtime restaurateur. “Where else can you taste food from more than 50 places at one event?”


Varalli, more than anyone else, should know whereof he speaks. His South Philly neighborhood favorite is the sole original restaurant still participating after those three decades.


Atlantic Cape Community College’s 2013 edition, to be held Thursday, March 14, at 6:30pm at various venues inside Bally’s, is planned as a reflection back upon that history. Specifically, the evening will serve to honor the late Donald P. “Doc” Crescenzo and Samuel Donio, a pair of prominent Hammonton businessmen who were founding members of the Atlantic Cape Foundation and the Board of Trustees. 


Crescenzo, a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Dentistry, served as a Navy dentist in Brooklyn prior to returning to Hammonton and opening his own practice. He was a longtime president of the Board of Education and helped develop the western Atlantic County town’s Wood Street Athletic Complex.


Donio, an attorney with a law degree from Rutgers Camden, and like Crescenzo a Navy veteran, was vice chairman of the Board of Trustees at Atlantic Cape. He also served as a solicitor for a number of south Jersey boards of education.


Members of the Crescenzo and Donio families will act as honorary chairpersons, along with Academy of Culinary Arts Honoree Chef Kevin Scull. A 1985 graduate of Atlantic Cape’s Academy of Culinary Arts, and formerly a restaurant owner in Ocean City, Scull currently serves as food-and-beverage director at the revitalized Golden Nugget.


“It’s nice to be recognized that I’d always given back to the profession,” says Scull. “That’s the most rewarding part.”


Scull, a longtime adjunct instructor at the ACA, credits the former and current deans, chef Klaus Muller and chef Kelly McClay, with having helped him immensely throughout his career. 


“[Muller] was a great mentor for me,” says Scull. 


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