Above: Janine Hall’s skills are centre stage at the Almost Famous Chef Competition Easter Canadian Semi-Final.
Following months of preparation, Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute is excited to announce that second-year Culinary Management student Janine Hall competed in the 2013 San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition, Eastern Canadian Semi-Final.
This national competition, presented by San Pellegrino, drew students from across Canada to compete for the opportunity to attend the North American competition in Napa Valley. The event took place Feb. 25 at the Cirillo’s Culinary Academy in Toronto.
Hall prepared a Caribbean-inspired jerk venison with swiss chard, cranberries, plantains and numerous other elements, coming together for a high-scoring composition at the Almost Famous Chef competition.
The tasting and comprehensive evaluation from the judging panel took place during a reception for local media, chefs and invited guests.
The judging panel included chef Brandon Thordarson of Moxie’s Bar and Grill (Calgary), chef Normand Laprise of Restaurant Toque (Montreal), chef Dan Potter of The Blackshop (Cambridge) and chef Joe Mercuri of Houston’s Avenue Bar & Grill (Montreal); as well as media judges Lisa Yeung of Huffington Post Canada, Katerine-Lune Rolley of Canoe.ca, Emily Richards of Metro Newspapers, and Matthew Hague of Toronto Life.
While Hall did not win the competition, she impressed the judges.
“The caliber of students in the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Canadian Regional Competition was extremely high this year,” said Jennifer Semley Robert, marketing manager, premium brands at Nestlé Waters Canada. “The judges had a tough time deciding on an overall winner. Janine Hall was an impressive competitor and we know she’ll be successful in her career as a chef.”
The long road to the national event began with a preliminary competition at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute in November 2012. The inclusion of San Pellegrino was a requirement as more than 15 students vied for a chance to compete at the national level. A panel of judges composed of local Niagara chefs and Canadian Food and Wine Institute chef professors tasted and graded the dishes and Hall reigned supreme.
Over the coming months, Hall has been in throws of careful and intense preparation with her mentor, chef professor Olaf Mertens. As the final competition day approached, her professionalism and respect for her craft were evident.
“Janine’s commitment over the past several months has shown a level of dedication to the culinary arts that is rare and to be admired in a student,” said chef professor Mertens. “The preparation for this competition is a true indication that we have great things to look forward to as we watch Janine’s career progress.”
“Competing in events such as this showcases the high caliber of skills our students gain here at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute with instruction from our expert chef professors,” he said. “Competition is valuable component of the learning experience and we believe in will not only help our students develop their skills, but will open doors for them in the future.”
Hall said her participation in the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Canadian Regional Competition was an invaluable experience.
“I feel edified not only by the effort I put into my preparations and performance, but by the information provided to me as a competitor,” she said. “This is the first competition I have been a part of where I feel as though the organizers are investing in the participants.”
Hall pointed out that the team from Salt Communications, the company hired by Nestle Waters to organize and run the competition, provided the unique opportunity for the competitors to engage in media training, a mentorship session with Chef Rob Gentile of Buca and Chef Mark McEwan, and an informative and comparative water tasting.
“I found value in every aspect of this experience: the time I committed to practicing my signature dish helped to develop technique as well as time management; receiving media training will serve me very well as I continue to engage with members of the media, and will aid me in marketing myself in the future; the mentorship I received both by Chef Olaf Mertens and in my session at Buca has made me recognize the importance of investing my time in a Chef who will teach me how to succeed in this industry; comparing Nestle waters with the likes of Fiji, Evian and Perrier, gave me an appreciation for the discernible influence of terroir on mineral waters, as well as a better understanding of food and beverage paring beyond the wine glass,” she said.
Now that the competition is done, Hall said her thoughts return to her studies, but her goals remain high.
“I will continue to aim for the top, strive for perfection and reach for the stars,” she said.
“Of course this means I must also accept failure and remain grateful for every learning opportunity.
“I don’t expect to become the greatest chef of my generation, but I know from experience that commitment breeds success. Therefore, I will persist.”
About the Almost Famous Chef Competition
For centuries, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water and Acqua Panna® Natural Spring Water have complemented fine food, wine and dining experiences. This passion for culinary arts led to the creation of the Almost Famous Chef Competition in 2002. Each year we host the leading culinary schools across the U.S. and Canada in a spirited cooking competition that spotlights the best and the brightest. Culinary students compete before the food media, distinguished guests and renowned chefs at regional competitions in January and February. The winners move on to the final competition in March in Napa Valley, California, 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 the winning dish during an extensive media tour.