The final leg of the 2015 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition is just around the corner. Already in its 12th year, the contest gives young chefs from 40 leading culinary schools in the United States a chance to compete for a one-year paid apprenticeship with a celebrity chef.
So far, five finalists from different regions have been selected. These talented culinary students will travel to Napa in the coming days where they will cook one last time during the finals to be held March 13-16. Their dishes will be judged by a panel of experts thats includes Sarah Grueneberg, Chad Anderson, Wilfred Bergerhausen, Chef JJ Johnson, Christina Grdovic and Kristen Thibeault (the winner of the 2013 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition).
We wanted you to meet the finalists before the big day so you can take a look at their dishes and root for your favorite. Here are the 2015 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Winners:
School: Kendall College, Chicago, IL
Winning Dish: Duo of Duck
"I am an aspiring culinarian who comes from Beijing and am currently cooking French food at a Mexican restaurant. I think my multicultural background in cooking represents the future generation of cooks, in that cooking should not be bound by categories of cuisine, and should have no pre-defined borders."
School: Johnson & Wales University- North Miami, FL
Winning Dish: Asian Inspired Grouper
"I love what I do, and I think it shows through the food I make. I cook for others, and my goal is to make people happy with the food I make. Over the past few years in school I have worked at some amazing places and have had amazing experiences in Germany, Spain, Malaysia and Singapore and I think that shows in my food. I truly believe I have the desire, speed, personality, technique and creativity to be the next S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef."
School: University of Nevada – Las Vegas, NV
Winning Dish: Duck Breast with Butternut Squash, Pears and Smoked Grain Salad
"I don’t necessarily think I ‘should’ be the next winner, but I want to show who I am and what I am capable of through cooking. Cooking is very personal, and everybody has different standards and styles. If others have different opinions from me, I respect them. I would rather be focused on having a good time and what I can learn than becoming the winner."
School: International Culinary Center, New York, NY
Winning Dish: Grilled Halibut with Swiss Chard
"Cooking is my number one passion in life. I recently transitioned from being a Computer Programmer at Bloomberg to follow this dream of mine, and I am all in. I am grateful for the opportunity to compete and am confident that my passion, motivation, and drive will make me successful and that winning the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition will be a strong foundation upon which to build my culinary career. I hope to inspire others to not be afraid to follow their dreams and to follow their hearts just as I am!"
Region: New England
School: Paul Smith College - Paul Smiths, NY
Dish: Winter Lamb
"When I first came to culinary school I was terrified to do anything. I would let everyone in my team do all the work because I didn’t want to mess up. Now, I know that I deserve to be in this industry. I am not afraid to take charge and to lead a team to success."