Culinary-arts student Jerome Rejano took top honors in the regional S.Pellegrino™ Almost Famous Chefs Competition at Kendall College on January 22. As a result, he advanced to the final event at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California, March 6-9, where he competed against nine other regional finalists from across North America.
The competition kicked off its seventh year in early January, with participation from nearly 80 students representing approximately 40 of the top culinary programs competing in 10 regional competitions before food media, distinguished guests and renowned chefs. Students competed in three categories: the Mystery Basket, Signature Dish and People’s Choice. The three days of competition are fierce, with a panel of judges critiquing competitors on every meticulous detail from taste, texture and aroma of the dish to presentation, kitchen skills and the ability to perform under pressure.
Rejano, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts, won the regional Almost Famous competition with his entry of flat-iron steak marinated in soy sauce, rice-wine vinegar, ginger and lime, then grilled to perfection. He served the steak with white-miso potato purée with miso-mirin glaze, sautéed shimeji mushrooms with soy-ginger reduction, and tempura enoki mushrooms with pickled cucumber, ginger and radish. “I have always had a passion for Japanese culture and cuisine,” Rejano says. “My mom would teach me to roll gyozas and take me out to eat sushi, even though I had to teach her how to use chopsticks!”
And the chef Rejano admires most? Benjamin Browning, executive chef of The Dining Room at Kendall College. “Chef Browning is very passionate about food and being true to it,” Rejano says. “Chef is a very firm believer in integrity toward one’s self and what one is cooking.”
The S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition was founded in 2001 as a mentoring program that connects top culinary students with established chefs and influential media. Since then, the 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.