Québec student wins Mystery Basket at 11th annual S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Final Competition

--Jean-Christophe Comtois also captures Acqua Panna Fan Favorite award and $6,000 in prize money--

MONTRÉAL, March 14, 2013 /CNW/ - Jean-Christophe Comtois from École hôtelière de la Capitale is the winner of the Mystery Basket and Acqua Panna Fan Favorite Awards at the 11th annual S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. The competition was held at The Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California from March 8th to 10th. Comtois competed against nine peers from across North America for the titles.

The S. Pellegrino Mystery Basket Competition is a two-hour cooking task where each competitor prepares an entrée with ingredients provided by event organizers. This year's mystery ingredients were seafood including cod, shrimps, mussels and clams. Cooking staples, such as onions, cheese, vegetables and wine, are also provided for the contestants to use.

"I had to think quickly when I saw the mystery basket ingredients," says Jean-Christophe Comtois of his winning dish. "I didn't have a lot of time to prepare something fancy so I kept it simple, sticking with classic cooking techniques, a bisque sauce for the cod and attractive plating."

Comtois' seafood plate was accompanied by parsnip puree and a barley salad with citrus. The judges were impressed by its visual impact and the well-prepared ingredients.

The judges included Michelin Star and James Beard Foundation Award-winning chefs Michel Richard of Citronelle, Mark McEwan of The Mark McEwan Group, Susur Lee of LEE Restaurant, Rick Moonen of RM Seafood, Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia and Chef Joho of Everest who furthered Comtois' culinary development with mentorship and critique.

Throughout the weekend, all finalists were also judged by culinary media, including Dana Cowin of Food & Wine, Betsy Andrews of Saveur, Sophie Gayot of gayot.com, Mitchell Davis of The James Beard Foundation and Jacob Richler of Maclean's.

"A competition of this nature really sets the students up with the skills necessary to build a solid career in the culinary industry," explained Mark McEwan of The Mark McEwan Group.

Comtois also won the Acqua Panna Fan Favorite award. Each competitor's picture and name of their signature dish were posted on the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition Facebook page prior to the event. Fans voted for their favorites and Comtois received over 1,100 'likes.'

$6,000 in prize money was awarded to Comtois: $3,000 for winning the S. Pellegrino Mystery Basket Competition and $3,000 for the Acqua Panna Fan Favorite.

"Everyone has good and bad days," Comtois philosophized after the event. "But I learned you need to make the most of every experience. I felt a lot of emotions at the event and now understand how important it is to take a step back, analyze each situation, learn from it and move on."

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 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition was founded in 2002 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.

Image with caption: "Jean-Christophe Comtois prepares his signature dish at The Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley last week-end at the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. Jean-Christophe, a student at École hôtelière de la Capitale, is the winner of the Mystery Basket and Acqua Panna Fan Favorite Awards at the 11th annual event. (CNW Group/S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130314_C5089_PHOTO_EN_24559.jpg

SOURCE: S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition

For further information:

Ariane Tremblay
(514) 861-1330
atremblay@girafe-communications.com

Visit the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition on Facebook or follow us on Pinterest or Twitter (the hash tag is #AFC13).

Materials are available for downloading here. Login: AFChefComp@polarisprinc.com (case sensitive). Password: AFChefComp (case sensitive).

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