STAMFORD, Conn., March 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Last night Marco Bahena, of Kendall College, was named the winner of the 9TH annual S.Pellegrino® Almost Famous Chef® Competition at the finals event held at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, Calif. A celebrity panel of judges awarded the top prize to Marco for his signature dish.
The event was hosted by Gail Simmons, Food & Wine Special Projects Director and Bravo's "Top Chef" Judge and Host, and Ralph Pagano, the Executive Chef at STK Miami, Finalist from "Hell's Kitchen," season one, and Host of the internationally broadcast travel show, "Pressure Cook."
Judging the three days of fierce competition were a panel of celebrity chefs and media: chefs Michel Richard of Citronelle, Rick Moonen of rm Seafood, Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, Jean Joho of Everest, Gary Danko of Gary Danko Restaurant, Brooke McDougall of ByMark Restaurant and Napa's own, Bob Hurley. The chefs were joined by an elite group of media: Dana Cowin of Food & Wine Magazine, Sophie Gayot of Gayot.com, Mitchell Davis of The James Beard Foundation and Bonnie Stern of The National Post.
"It is awe-inspiring to be included among this group of judges and witness firsthand the up-and-coming talent in our industry," said Tony Mantuano. "While Marco took the top prize, I can easily see any of the other nine competitors having long culinary careers, and I anticipate eating in one of their restaurants some day. This competition fosters developing mentoring relationships between current chefs and the next generation of talent, and being part of that is really rewarding."
Marco's prizes included a $10,000 cash prize for winning as well as $3,000 for his winning signature dish of Mediterranean Lamb Loin, a year-long paid apprenticeship with a participating chef judge of his choice and the title of 2011 S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef.
In addition to vying for the top prize, the 10 competitors also competed in a Mystery Basket Competition and were voted on by fans and attendees for the People's Choice and Acqua Panna Fan Favorite Awards. Marco Bahena, Kendall College also won the $3,000 Signature Dish prize for his recipe, Mediterranean Lamb Loin. Jean-François Daigle of The George Brown Chef's School won the Mystery Basket competition, earning him $3,000, for a dish he created with the surprise ingredients featurink loin. Elizabeth Freer from the Culinary Institute of Charleston won the People's Choice Award, taking away $3,000 for her signature dish, Rabbit Two Ways: Pecan and Spice Encrusted Rabbit Tenderloin with Sweet Braised Rabbit Ravioli and a Baby Spinach, Radicchio Saute. And Emma Louth from Drexel University scored $3,000 for wowing the online audience with her dish.
The at-home voters of the Acqua Panna Fan Favorite Award were able to enter to win a trip for two to Napa for the 2012 finals competition via the Almost Famous website during the competitions that were broadcast throughout the weekend.
"I am thrilled to be named the winner, especially by this amazing panel of judges," said Marco Bahena. "Not only was it an incredible experience competing against nine really talented competitors, but to be able to cook in one of the most prestigious kitchens in the world and be mentored by such a talented group of chef and media judges for the weekend – I couldn't have asked for a better jump-start to my career."
For more information on the competition and to view Marco's biography and winning recipe, visit www.almostfamouschef.com, www.thesparklinglife.com, become a fan on Facebook (www.facebook.com/almostfamouschef) 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.