Santa Monica resident and California School of Culinary Arts student Kristianne Pak was selected as the winner of the 2008 S.Pellegrino “Almost Famous Chef” competition at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley March 9th.

The event was hosted by the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef, Harold Dieterle, the chef and owner of Perilla, New York, and actress Lorraine Bracco, president of Bracco Wines.

Pak was chosen from among nine other top culinary students from around the U.S. and Canada by an elite judging panel.

Her prizes included a $10,000 cash prize, a $1,000 scholarship for her school, a year-long opportunity to work with a nationally recognized chef and the title “2008 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef.”

“This is a dream come true,” said Pak, who draws from her Japanese-Korean-American heritage to create her signature fusion cuisine style. “Just to be given this opportunity by S.Pellegrino was incredible, and so challenging, but worth every bit of work put into it. I planned on bringing my ‘A’ game to the competition, and I definitely did. I think this is the best career starter anyone could ask for.”

The ten finalists competed in three categories — the Mystery Basket, Signature Dish, and People’s Choice Tasting Gala.

Pak won the Signature Dish Challenge as well as the People’s Choice, which was chosen by more than 200 guests of the People’s Choice Tasting Gala and Awards Reception, for her Asian-American-inspired glazed beef short ribs, stir-fried miso spinach and chestnut steamed rice.