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The first part of the competition is over; hats up!

By Sophie Gayot



Part one of the S.Pellegrino® Almost Famous Chef® Competition, held for the eighth time this year, is The Mystery Basket competition. The rules are very strict (there is a full page of them), but the basics are that the eleven contestants have 2 hours to create a dish with the featured ingredients and prepare 10 identical plates to be served to the judges. This year’s mystery ingredients were organic chicken, mushrooms and eggs. The contestants—all chefs in training— had a long list of other produce they were allowed to use, including flavors from the “Asian pantry,” the “Mediterranean pantry” and the “Latin pantry.”



While the kitchen of The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, was in full swing, chef Fabio Viviani from Firenze Osteria (and who loves to be on camera) interviewed the contestants and the judges. The coverage was streamed live for the first time in the event’s history.


Then came my part: the judging. Over the course of four hours, chef Michel Richard of Citronelle (one of GAYOT’s Top 40 U.S. Restaurants), chef Rick Moonen of rm Seafood (Las Vegas), chef Wade Wiestling of The Oceanaire Seafood Room (12 locations in the US), chef Ralph Pagano of, chef Andrew Ellerby of ONE Restaurant (Toronto, Canada), chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy), Food & Wine magazine’s editor in chief Dana Cowin, Bon Appétit Magazine’s restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton, Toronton National Post’s columnist Bonnie Stern, last’s year winner David Awad and I discovered the plates one by one, as they were presented and explained by the students. The good thing: though the dishes were based on similar ingredients, each of them was very different in creativity, execution, presentation and taste.


See the pictures below for all the details.


You can click on each photo to enlarge.

You can click on each photo to enlarge.


  1. The competition was very solid in 2010. I’m glad Sophie was pleased with my dish.

    Comment by Robert Crawford — March 13, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

  2. I watch the event on the live feeds from the San Pellegino website. It was awesome. I loved how it was real tv and not produced reality! All the chefs dishes looked deliscious. Looking forward to see it again on the web next year.

    Comment by Julie — March 14, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  3. […] four hours of tasting yesterday for The Mystery Basket, two hours today for The Signature Dish, and one hour of voting and deliberation, the results are […]

    Pingback by GAYOT’s Blog The 2010 Almost Famous Chef Winners Are… — March 19, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

  4. […] big fan of S. Pellegrino, both their water and their awards. For the last few years, we’ve helped judge their cooking competition for young chefs. Last year, was even able to attend the gala […]

    Pingback by GAYOT’s Blog World’s Best Restaurants — April 28, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

  5. […] Culinary Institute, during which students prepare a two-course menu in 45 minutes using a “mystery basket” of ingredients. Celebrity judges will decide who walks away with a $500 […]

    Pingback by GAYOT’s Blog Chicago Locavore Challenge is On — September 8, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

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