Kendall Culinary Student Wins Almost Famous Chef Contest

Kendall College School of Culinary Arts student Jennifer Kim won the 10th-annual S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition held in Napa Valley, California, March 11. This is the fourth time that a Kendall College student has won the national competition, which is a record, and the second consecutive win by a student enrolled at the school.

More than 70 students competed at the regional level, and Kim was up against nine finalists in Napa for top honors. Her win was the culmination of five months of preparation, training, and coaching from Kendall chef-instructors Michel Coutrieux, Benjamin Browning, and Tom Meyer.  

Kim, 28, takes home $13,000 for her winning signature dish, Chard-Rolled Duck Roulade. She also receives a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity: a yearlong paid apprenticeship with the participating chef judge of her choice. Kim also won the Mystery Basket competition.

“I am speechless, and this is a dream come true—to be chosen as the winner of a culinary competition of this caliber by some of the best chefs in the nation,” says Kim, a native of Schaumburg, Illinois, who will graduate from Kendall with an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts later this month. “I'm honored and ready for my career to begin with one of the chef mentors.”

Actress Lorraine Bracco and TV chef personality Ralph Pagano hosted the powerful three-day competition that was judged by Michelin-star and James Beard Award-winning chefs Gary Danko of Restaurant GARY DANKO, San Francisco; Jean Joho of Everest and the Paris Club, Chicago, Brasserie Jo, Boston, and The Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas; Bob Hurley of Hurley’s Restaurant & Bar, Napa Valley; Susur Lee of LEE, Toronto, and SHANG, New York; Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, Chicago, and Mangia Trattoria, Kenosha, Wisconsin; Michel Richard of Citronelle and Central, Washington, D.C.; and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin and West End Bistro, New York, 10 Arts, Philadelphia, and Blue in the Cayman Islands.

“I could not be prouder of Jennifer,” says Christopher Koetke, C.E.C., C.C.E., vice president of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and Laureate Universities International Center of Excellence in Culinary Arts, who was on hand in Napa Valley to support Kim as she took the national title.

“Jennifer worked very hard and made many personal sacrifices to compete. Watching her win was a tribute to her enormous talent and drive, and the excellent education she’s receiving at Kendall. The 2012 Almost Famous competition is only the beginning; we will be hearing much more about Jennifer as her career takes off.”

For more information on the competition and to become a fan on Facebook, visit

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