8th Annual S.Pellegrino(R) Almost Famous Chef(R) Competition Expands Its Search for The Next Culinary Sensation

Students from Italy, Mexico and Puerto Rico will now compete side by side with competitors from the U.S. and Canada for the career opportunity of a lifetime with a participating chef and the chance to win up to $20,000

Jan 20, 2010, 16:13 ET from S.Pellegrino

GREENWICH, Conn., Jan. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- In its 8th year, the S.Pellegrino® Almost Famous Chef® Competition has expanded its search for the next culinary star internationally. Some of the best culinary students from Italy, Mexico and Puerto Rico will join rising stars from the U.S. and Canada to vie for the title of S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef.

The S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition serves as a platform for international culinary schools to showcase their students' culinary expertise during a fast-paced, high-pressure cooking competition. Students have the rare opportunity to compete against one another in front of a panel of food media, distinguished guests and renowned chefs. The overall winner will take the title, up to $20,000 in prizes and a paid apprenticeship from one of the participating chef judges. Last year's winner, David Awad, is currently working at Michael White's Alto in NYC, which just received a Michelin Star.

This year will also be the first time that the competition will be streamed live via the Almost Famous Chef website and Facebook, so fans can interact with each other and with the live streaming host. The finals competition as well as the Las Vegas regional will be featured in the live streaming events. From now and throughout the competition, Facebook fans and Twitter followers receive updates and insider information like interviews with past competitors and with celebrity chefs involved in the program. These updates to the competition allow fans a unique perspective on what it takes to be a chef – from culinary school to a restaurant's kitchen. Fans will also have the opportunity to vote on their favorite competitor online and receive a chance to win an all expenses paid trip to the 2011 competition in Napa.

The changes to the program mean that for the first time ever, 11 regional winners will be flown to the finals event taking place March 5–8, 2010, at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, Calif. They will compete in three categories: the Mystery Basket, Signature Dish and People's Choice. The three days of competition are fierce, with the esteemed panel of judges evaluating competitors on every detail. Students are critiqued on taste, texture and aroma of the dish, to presentation, kitchen skills and the ability to perform under pressure.

The first competition of its kind, the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition gives student chefs the opportunity to experience their first heated culinary competition and be mentored by some of the biggest names in the culinary world. Chef judges include Rick Moonen of RM Seafood, Ralph Pagano, Hell's Kitchen season one's runner-up and chef/owner of kitchensynx.com and Celebrity Chef Nick Stellino. Media judges include Dana Cowin of Food & Wine, Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit and Phil Lempert of The Today Show.

Last year's winner understands the value that winning the competition has provided to his career. "The networking opportunities have been the best part for me," Awad says. "Meeting all these established chefs in my field has truly been an honor. From attending the James Beard Awards and meeting chefs of that caliber, to having my picture in Times Square, this experience has been unparalleled."

The 2010 Almost Famous Title is now up for grabs. Students are perfecting their recipes, and the judges are ready to bring on the heat to see who will take the silver pan and be this year's champion. For more information on the competition, visit www.almostfamouschef.com, www.thesparklinglife.com, become a fan on Facebook or follow the competition on Twitter at AFChefComp.

About the S.Pellegrino® Almost Famous Chef® Competition

For centuries, Acqua Panna® Natural Spring Water and S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water have complemented fine food, wine and the dining occasion. In support of this passion for gastronomy and their commitment to the culinary arts, The Almost Famous Chef Competition was founded in 2001 as a mentoring program that connects top culinary students with established chefs and influential media. Since then, this program has helped to launch hundreds of culinary careers and refined the skills of a new generation of chefs. Through the Almost Famous Chef Competition, student chefs are given the opportunity to gain unmatched experience, while cooking in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world. For more information, please visit www.almostfamouschef.com, or for additional information or to access the award-winning student recipes, please visit  www.thesparklinglife.com.

SOURCE S.Pellegrino