GREENWICH, Conn., Dec. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The search for the next big culinary star is under way, with more than 60 culinary students sharpening their knives in hopes of making it to the finals competition in Napa Valley. The 2008 S.Pellegrino(TM) Almost Famous Chef(SM) Competition kicks off its 6th year by partnering with more than 30 of the top culinary schools in the United States and Canada, giving participating students the rare opportunity to compete against one another in 10 regional competitions and the chance to prepare their respective winning signature dishes for an esteemed panel of chef and media judges. Winners from the regional competitions will be flown to the finals event at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, Calif., taking place March 7-10, 2008, where they will compete in three categories: the Harvest Mystery Basket, Signature Dish and People's Choice Tasting Gala. Individual winners from each competition will receive a cash prize and the opportunity to apprentice at a world-renowned restaurant. The overall winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize as well as a year-long job opportunity to work with a nationally recognized chef. To continue the passion and excitement of the Almost Famous Chef Competition, S.Pellegrino will team up with Bravo(R) Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle, chef/owner of Perilla restaurant in New York, along with award-winning actress, famous for her role on The Sopranos on HBO(R), Lorraine Bracco, president of Bracco Wines. Dieterle, who will serve as the master of ceremonies and celebrity chef at the finals competition in Napa Valley, will also host the Northeast regional event being held at the Institute of Culinary Education in February. Bracco will co-host the People's Choice Tasting Gala along with Dieterle to announce the 2008 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef winner. "The restaurant industry has all the qualities of a real-life competition," says Harold Dieterle. "Almost Famous sets up these young chefs to feel comfortable and thrive in these high-pressure situations, which is why so many of the students leave the competition and go on to work for some of the best restaurants in the country." Ranbir Batra, winner of the 2006 Almost Famous Chef Competition, credits the competition with the jump-start of his career. "The Almost Famous Chef Competition provided me with an experience that I will never forget. Working alongside chefs like Sara Moulton and Victor Scargle was an experience that none of us would have received in class," he says. "The career opportunities that were presented to me after winning would have taken me years to get on my own, and I am very grateful to S.Pellegrino for the opportunity." About S.Pellegrino The #1 sparkling mineral water brand in fine dining restaurants, S.Pellegrino(R) Sparkling Natural Mineral Water has been appreciated as the perfect meal accompaniment since its discovery in the 13th century. High in the mountains north of Milan, the waters rise from an underground aquifer, where 14 distinct minerals in the limestone and volcanic rock impart a unique flavor. Lightly carbonated, S.Pellegrino is the ideal complement to every dining experience. For more information on S.Pellegrino, visit http://www.sanpellegrino.com or http://www.nestle-watersna.com.