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ACA Student Earns Vince DeFinis Scholarship to Pursue Culinary Dream

October 18, 2012

After helping his two friends establish a successful restaurant in Puerto Rico, Academy of Culinary Arts student Javier Rodriguez of Egg Harbor Township, was inspired to pursue a career in the culinary field. When he enrolled at the ACA this fall, he applied for the prestigious Vince DeFinis Restaurant Gala Scholarship.

“I never thought at my age I would have received the scholarship,” Rodriguez, 39, said.

 Rodriguez planned to apply for a one-time $1,500 culinary scholarship, but decided to apply for the full-scholarship as well, which awards $6,000 for each of the three semesters at the Academy to one full-time culinary student.

Rodriguez, an administrative clerk at the Atlantic City Police Department and father of two children, has been patiently waiting for his wife to graduate from college before being able to attend culinary school.

“If I hadn’t received the scholarship, I would have had to take out loans,” Rodriguez said.

Without the burden of student loan debt, Rodriguez can pursue his culinary dream: to own a restaurant specializing in French cuisine.

“My wife gives me the okay if [my food] is good. Some of her favorite dishes that I’ve learned to make at the ACA are Mushroom Sauce, Bruschetta, Shrimp Bisque and Manhattan Clam Chowder,” he said.

Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s of Business Administration in Accounting from the InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico in 1995, where he took cost accounting and managerial accounting classes, which is proving to be very useful.  

“I know a lot of restaurants fail because of a lack of financial planning,” Rodriguez said. “Because of my accounting experience, I think it will be easier for me to understand the pricing of items, and have a leg up on the business.” 

Culinary scholarships are open to students who enroll in at least 12 credits for their first semester in the program. Applicants must apply for admission to Atlantic Cape, meet the necessary scores on the college Placement Test, and file an application for financial aid for the 2012-2013 school year. Financial need is preferred but not required to receive a scholarship.

The Academy has been training future chefs for more than 30 years, and offers associate degree and short-term training programs. Full-time classes meet Monday-Friday, in five-hour morning, afternoon or evening sessions, from August-December and January-May. Part-time and evening classes are also available. For more information about the Academy, call 1-800-645‑CHEF, e-mail, or visit