Some of the best culinary student chefs across the U.S. and Canada are honing their skills to become the next rising star of the culinary world. The S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition kicks off its 7th year in early January, with participation from nearly 80 student chefs, representing approximately 40 of the best culinary schools, competing in 10 regional competitions before food media, distinguished guests and renowned chefs. In this premier culinary event, celebrity chefs act both as mentors and judges, while students compete for up to $20,000, a paid apprenticeship and the chance to become the next S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef.

Ten regional winners will be flown to the Finals event taking place March 6–9, 2009, 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 a panel of judges critiquing competitors on every meticulous detail from taste, texture and aroma of the dish, to presentation, kitchen skills, and the ability to perform under pressure.

Judges include some of the most prestigious chefs and esteemed members of the media. Past judges have included celebrity chefs Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, Greg Cole of Celadon and Cole’s Chop House, Food Network star Sara Moulton and Bravo’s Top Chef Season 1 winner and chef/owner of Perilla, Harold Dieterle.

The S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition is the first of its kind to allow student chefs to experience their first heated culinary competition, as well as the rare opportunity to work alongside some of the biggest names in the culinary world.

Kristianne Pak, winner of the 2008 Almost Famous Chef Competition, reflects on the opportunities that became available to her as a result of her title. “I came into the competition knowing that I was competing against the best up-and-coming young chefs,” she says. “This competition opened up so many doors for me, and I am very thankful to S.Pellegrino for this experience!”

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