NAPA VALLEY, Calif. — Kristen Thibeault, from Le Cordon Bleu Boston, nabbed the title of Almost Famous Chef at the 11th annual edition of the competition, which was founded as a mentoring program to connect top culinary students with established chefs.“I can’st even believe it happened with the many other talented chefs here,” said Thibeault, who was also the People’s Choice Award recipient and prepared porcini-crusted vegan ‘sweetbreads’ made with gluten meat. “Now, I want to [become] the best chef I can be; be an amazing spokesperson and further my culinary career.”
Defeating nine finalists who competed over three days, Thibeault wins a $13,000 cash prize and a one-year paid apprenticeship with one of the chef judges. The judging panel included Toronto’s Mark McEwan and Susur Lee, Chicago’s Jean Joho and Tony Mantuano and Las Vegas’ Rick Moonen. “A competition of this nature really sets students up with the skills necessary to build a solid career in the culinary industry,” said McEwan, The Mark McEwan Group.
Jean-Christophe Comtois of Quebec, won the Mystery Basket Competition, combining cod, shrimps, mussels and clams in a pleasing way. “I didn’st have 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 said. The young French chef was also the online fan favourite for his milk veal tenderloin, matsutake and tomme des joyeux fromagers flavoured polenta.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Jean Christophe Comtois, of Quebec’s École hôtelière de la Capitale, competed in the event after winning the regional competition in Toronto last month.