Art Institute of Pittsburgh Student Competes in “2015 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition” Regional Finals in NYC, February 8-9

By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Culinary

February 5, 2015

Food on Plate

Brandon Allen, budding chef and culinary student at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, will compete February 8-9, 2015 in the regional competition of the “2015 S.Pellegrino® Almost Famous Chef® Competition,” a cooking competition featuring students from over 40 culinary schools across the country.

The competition is a mentorship program in which culinary students compete before the food media, distinguished guests, and renowned chefs at regional competitions in January and February. Those who win the regional competitions progress to the final round, held in March 2015 in Napa Valley, California. The ultimate winner will be named “S.Pellegrino® Almost Famous Chef” and receive a one-year paid apprenticeship with a celebrity chef.

Brandon, who will complete his Associate of Science degree in Culinary Arts in June 2015, has already earned a number of culinary kudos. He is a winner of The Art Institutes Best Teen Chef Award in the high school graduate category. He also earned a Portfolio Scholarship including “Best in Show” for a sustainable restaurant concept and menu that he developed. 

Brandon believes that his culinary education has pushed his creativity—in particular the mentoring he’s received from his instructor, Chef Shawn Culp. “In my first culinary lab class, I met Chef Shawn Culp. Chef must have noticed my drive and commitment to the program because by the third week of the quarter he asked me to help him out with some prep work after class one day,” says Brandon.

The work helped Brandon to gain high-level knife skills. He began coming into the kitchen even on days off to help Chef Culp prepare for his Olympic Culinary Team practices.  “The prep work with Chef Culp soon turned into an apprenticeship, which has basically been the equivalent of earning a master's degree on top of my culinary education.  The training and education that I have received from Chef Culp is beyond invaluable.  Chef will not only play an important role to my experience at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, but also as a mentor throughout my culinary career.”

When Brandon learned of “S.Pellgrino Almost Famous Chef Competition,” he felt confident that his training, mentoring, and coaching would help him to succeed. During the competition, Brandon had additional mentoring from Chef Art Inzinga, culinary instructor at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “The industry and competition experience that Chef Inzinga has, on top of competition judging experience, has provided me with amazing coaching and guidance throughout my practices and entree' development for the competition,” Brandon adds.  

To advance to the regional competition, Brandon competed against his classmates in November 2014 for the chance to submit a biography and signature dish recipe to S.Pellegrino. 

“[I was] selected me to represent The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in a regional competition in New York City at restaurant SD26.” Ten regional competitions will take place—five in the United States and five in Canada—and the winners from each will meet in Napa, CA for the finals in March.  

Brandon’s passion for culinary arts has been duly noted by his instructors, who say that he is driven, dedicated, mature, professional, focused, passionate, and competitive. 

“Brandon wants to win and for that he places his best foot forward in the kitchen no matter if it is practicing for the competition or in lab class.  Brandon's education thus far has built a solid foundation of cooking techniques, terminology, theory and knife skills to utilize while competing.,” says Chef Culp; MBA, CEC, FMP; Department Chair, Culinary Arts and Management/Baking and Pastry/Hotel Restaurant Management at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Chef Culp adds that Brandon has gained the understanding of what it takes to be a great chef and understands the commitment needed to prepare for an event like the San Pellegrino completion.  “There has been a lot of time practicing and personal sacrifice put forward in the preparation for the competition. “


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