[ADVENTURE] Judging the San Pellegrino ‘Almost Famous Chef’ Cooking Competition
If you’ve never had to judge a cooking competition in Los Angeles, here’s what you need to know: Give yourself at least three hours to get there. Remember to take pictures of each of the dishes and of each of the chefs. Above all, don’t do it when you’re sick. You can’t avoid it if your boss says you’re filling in as a last-minute replacement when you’re already on your way to the event, but trust me, it’ll be tough. The lights will be much too bright and the booze will be much too strong, and worst of all, you won’t be able to taste anything half as well as you’d like to.
At least, that’s what I’ve heard.
Last week, Geoff and I got the chance to judge the West Regional for the San Pellegrino 2013 ’Almost Famous Chef’ cooking competition, held February 13 at the Art Institute in Hollywood. Eight aspiring chefs from culinary schools all over the western United States competed for a chance to move on to the final competition in March in Napa Valley, Calif., where they will compete for up to $22,000 in prize money, a one-year paid apprenticeship with a celebrity chef and a chance to recreate their winning dish during an extensive media tour.
The results, of course, were phenomenal. Check out just a few of our favorite photos from the night below:
To start, each chef was given a staggered time frame to prepare their signature dishes, depending on the order they would be presented to the judging panel over the course of night. Though the judging portion didn’t start until 7, some chefs set to work in the kitchen as early as 4 p.m., and by the end of the night, one chef even had the entire kitchen to herself.
Facing a panel of judges made up of top chefs and media personalities, each competitor had the chance to present his or her signature dish, which was then followed by a brief Q&A session to help judges determine the chef’s culinary acumen, confidence and personability. Here are some of our favorite dishes:
2013 West Regional Winner – Chipotle Beer Braised Pork Belly on Blue Corn Mash with Pomegranate Reduction Sauce by Airam Villegas Gonzalez, Le Cordon Bleu Los Angeles
Chicken Adobo by Hannah Cambronero – Le Cordon Bleu Seattle
People’s Choice - Seafood Dashi of Oregon by Davey Rabinowitz, Western Culinary Institute
Pacific Tuna Trio by Anita Allen, San Diego Culinary Institute
Of course, each chef was remarkably talented and undeniably driven, which showed in both their dishes and their presentations. Congratulations to Airam and good luck to everyone competing at finals in March.
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