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MAYS LANDING - In Atlantic County, there is a hidden gem of gourmet food that often goes unnoticed because of its surprising location and because many do not know it is open to the public — Careme’s Restaurant on the Atlantic Cape Community College campus.

On Jan. 25, the student-run restaurant reopened after being closed for the college’s winter break.

“When school isn’t open, we aren’t open,” said Becca Desmond, Careme’s manager. However, that does not stop the restaurant from continually striving to make Careme’s a place that people will return to again and again.

The restaurant’s name comes from a famous chef by the name of Marie-Antoine Carême. Careme’s has been open since 1981 — as long as Atlantic Cape’s Academy of Culinary Arts has been — and almost all of the ingredients used in its menu items are locally sourced. In fact, some ingredients are so local that the students do not even need to leave the campus to obtain them.

“We have a greenhouse on campus,” said Desmond. “It’s great because we can walk over and get any herbs we need.”

The greenhouse is tended by the students themselves.

Careme’s also serves as a hands-on learning site for students from the culinary arts academy. Culinary arts students, with the exception of baking and pastry students, have several classes where they work at Careme’s.

“It gives students more real-world experience,” said Rebecca Leon, a waitress at Careme’s.

Along with providing hands-on experience for its ACCC’s culinary arts students, Careme’s main goal aims to provide quality cuisine at affordable prices.

“You get incredible meals for reasonable prices,” said Desmond. Current menu items are priced at $10 or below, but there also are specials that allow customers to order several courses for a flat rate.

“It’s a great, nice space to relax,” said Laura Batchelor, executive director of Marketing & College Relations, the ACCC’s Academy of Culinary Arts.

Careme’s is one of the restaurant’s that will be featured during Atlantic City Restaurant Week from March 4 to March 9.

Careme’s also serves another purpose.

“It’s a chance to showcase the academy and a chance to show students who may be considering a career in culinary arts,” said Bruce Johns, head chef of Careme’s and director of Culinary Operations for the Academy of Culinary Arts.

It is clear after speaking to students, former students and staff that Atlantic Cape’s Academy of Culinary Arts is a source of deep pride.

“We have been consistently rated the No. 1 culinary school in New Jersey,” Batchelor said.

Careme’s is open Monday through Friday 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch. Dinner seating starts at 6:30 p.m., but is only available when there are later classes. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (609) 343-4940. Groups and parties are welcome. For more information, please visit Careme’s Restaurant’s Facebook page or visit their webpage http://www.atlantic.edu/aca/caremes.html.

Careme’s is located at 5100 Black Horse Pike, Building M, Mays Landing.

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