HAMMONTON - The town's reputation as a "foodie" destination is bringing Atlantic Cape Community College's Academy of Culinary Arts to Hammonton.

The ACA will offer continuing education cooking classes at the Atlantic County Human Services Building on Bellevue Avenue starting in August, ACA Dean Kelly McClay said. It's the first time the ACA has offered regular classes outside of one of the college's campuses in Mays Landing, Atlantic City and Cape May Court House, she said.

"We feel very comfortable and welcome in Hammonton," McClay said, adding the college would eventually like to have a permanent presence in town.

"It's becoming a foodie town," she said. "The culture there really supports the love of food."

The ACA has been participating in Hammonton events for a few years. It has had a presence at some Third Thursday downtown evenings, and ACA students cooked for the Artist of the Year celebration that honored Boardwalk Empire author and Hammonton resident Nelson Johnson last year, she said.

Hammonton has the highest concentration of Italian residents in New Jersey, and one of the highest in the nation. It has long been the home of several excellent Italian restaurants.

In recent years it has also attracted several Mexican restaurants, Chinese restaurants, the Annata Wine Bar and its tapas menu, and several breakfast and lunch places.

McClay said the county building has a commercial kitchen with a refrigerator, stoves, range, hearth and a three-compartment sink. Classes will be limited to 15 students so everyone will get hands-on time in the kitchen.

"It's my understanding that the facility is used in the afternoon for meals to seniors," she said, and a local church offers a soup kitchen there some nights. "I don't know that it would be the ideal space for intensive classes. If all goes well, we might make modifications and bring more equipment in."

Continuing education classes are a bit more relaxed than the classes taken by full-time culinary arts program students, she said, but all of the information is the same as that given in the culinary classroom.

"If I were teaching on soups, I'd show them the difference between making clear and thick soups, pureed or cream or thickened with a rue," she said.

"The culinary students are making 12 different soups in the course of three to four days."

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If you go

Academy of Culinary Arts classes will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of the month at the Human Services Building, 310 Bellevue Ave., Hammonton. Aug. 29: Healthy Snacks and School Lunches; Sept. 26: Seasonal Cooking; Oct. 24: Soups; Nov. 14: Nontraditional Side Dishes; Dec. 12: Cookie Exchange. Demonstration, tasting and hands-on activity. Cost is $85 per person, per workshop. Call 609-343-4829 or visit www.atlantic.edu/conted