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Two local chefs prepare for the Almost Famous Chef Competition in Toronto

Photos by Kelly J Marion -- follow her at @kellyjean247

Matt Cusano and Kevan Hafichuk, two student chefs in Vancouver, are preparing for a North America-wide chefs' event in Toronto.

Known as the S. Pellegrino ALMOST Famous Chef Competition, it acts as a mentoring program that connects top culinary students with established chefs and influential media. Since its inception in 2002, it has helped to launch hundreds of culinary careers while refining the skills of a new generation of chefs across Canada and the United States.

The two talented Vancouver lads who have earned their entry in to the competition have been practising hard to fine-tune their dishes and work on their presentation skills. They will unveil their creation in front of judges at the semi-finals at the end of February, leaving Vancouver on the 24th.

The spirited culinary competition ultimately strives to find today’s next chef prodigy with criteria emphasis on top-notch ingredients, lavish flavours, and a creative approach. 

A small media group put Matt and Kevan to the test Tuesday to see if they could handle the pressure of cameras, questions and discerning palates. 

Kevan Hafichuk, a student at the Pacific Institute for Culinary Arts prepared a creamy, "bite-size" oxtail tortellini. 

Oxtail tortellini with sustainable BC spot prawns cooked in kaffir lime butter sauce with roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree garnished with baby watercress

Matt Cusano, a student at the Art Institute International Culinary School prepared a halibut dish that packed a little heat. 

Miso-glazed poached halibut with chorizo and parsnip puree garnished with celery leaves

This year Top Chef Masters finalist, Tony Mantuano, will act as a mentor, alongside Rick Moonen, Susur Lee, Mark McEwan and Chef Joho.

The winners of the competition move on to the finals 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. 

For live updates on the West Regional Competition follow @AFChefComp on Twitter.

For more photos check out my Almost Famous Chefs set on Flickr. 

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