Kendall College student Marco Bahena has been named the winner of the 9TH annual S.Pellegrino® Almost Famous Chef® competition held in Napa Valley, Calif. This is the third win for a Kendall College student, setting the record for the school with the most wins in the event's history. Bahena, a 21-year old student at the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, takes home $13,000, winning $10,000 for the Almost Famous Chef competition and another $3,000 for his winning signature dish, Mediterranean Lamb Loin. Bahena will also get a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity – a year-long paid apprenticeship with the participating chef judge of his choice.
"We are all so very proud of Marco," said Christopher Koetke, executive director of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts. "Watching him compete and win was truly exciting. Marco has tremendous talent and I look forward to watching his career soar." The event was hosted by Gail Simmons, Food & Wine special projects director and Bravo's "Top Chef" judge and host, and Ralph Pagano, executive chef at STK Miami, finalist from "Hell's Kitchen," season one, and host of the internationally broadcast travel show, "Pressure Cook."
"I am thrilled to be the winner, especially selected by this amazing panel of judges," said Marco Bahena. "Not only was it an incredible experience competing against nine really talented competitors, but also to 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."
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 someday. This competition fosters developing mentoring relationships between current chefs and the next generation of talent, and being part of that is really rewarding."
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.