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Brigantine Husband, Wife among Seven To Complete Continuing Education Culinary Program

December 4, 2007

With 26 years of service at the Sands Hotel Casino, John and Sharon Conway thought they would continue working at the casino until retirement. Instead, the sale and closure of the property put the Brigantine couple on a new path. John, 62, and Sharon, 61, along with five others, completed an intense five-month continuing education culinary career training program at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College Nov. 30.

Sharon was a beverage server for her entire career at the Sands, but she loved to bake. John divided his years among food and beverage operations, facilities and maintenance and hotel management. He had always been interested in food, however, and was accepted into a culinary apprenticeship program between Sands and then Atlantic Community College when he first began working for the casino. But the funding for the program was discontinued, and John’s culinary aspirations were put on hold.

“Completing this program has fulfilled a dream,” John said. For Sharon too, the program has been a great experience. “It is a highlight of my life. I really enjoyed it.”

It took both Conways time to adjust to returning to school, and to spending six hours a day together in class after working opposite shifts at the Sands for many years. “We talked like we did at home, and didn’t realize we were bickering sometimes. The chef had to separate us in the kitchen,” Sharon said.

But they’re now used to sharing kitchen space and prepared Thanksgiving dinner together. They are considering opening their own breakfast and lunch restaurant or continuing their education in the Academy’s credit program.

The five-month training prepared the students for entry-level kitchen and baking positions. Students focused on mastering cooking principles and practical techniques and home in on areas they want to specialize in. The students also prepared for and passed the National Restaurant Association Food Service Sanitation certificate.

Students who completed the program in addition to the Conways include: Edward A. Burns of Pomona, Alejandra LaCava of Egg Harbor Township, Shirley McLeary of Pleasantville, Brian Nicholas of Galloway and Mark A. Sawyer of Atlantic City.

The students received their certificates during a ceremony at Careme’s, the student-run gourmet restaurant at the Academy. Chef Jon Davies, an adjunct professor, taught the course. The next course begins in January. For more information about the continuing education training program, call the Academy at 1-800-645-CHEF or (609) 343-5624, or visit www.atlantic.edu/conted.