The San Pellegrino Cooking Cup 2009 Venice, Italy

Chefs, food critics, and connoisseurs around the world know about S. Pellegrino’s carefully crafted guide to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. To be mentioned in this list is truly an honor akin to the Michelin Guide. Per Se, Daniel, the French Laundry, and Jean Georges are amongst the stateside representatives on this elite list. Likewise, for a chef under 30, it is the ultimate honor to be named S. Pellegrino’s “Young Chef of the Year.”  And it is no easy feat—this chef must prepare a meal under a time limit and serious constraints. His team’s sailing capabilities also must be competition-grade.

Each year, on a cloudless Venetian summer day, the Lagoon of Venice helps S. Pellegrino celebrate two of its greatest passions—fine dining and sailing. The S. Pellegrino Cooking Cup is one of the foremost events on the world’s culinary calendar; think of it as a combination of Bocuse D’Or and The America’s Cup.

This ninth installment of the event was judged by Europe’s finest chefs, a veritable galaxy of Michelin stars. Best Sommelier in the World Andreas Larsson joined the likes of Massimo Bottura, Giovanni D’Amato, and honorary judge Vittorio Missoni of the famed fashion dynasty. Contestants from as far and wide as the U.K., South Africa, Switzerland, U.A.E., Singapore, Russia, Germany, Belgium, and Australia (and of course Italy) were judged on both culinary wit and sailing prowess. And so, with the challenges of cooking on the Adriatic Sea under the space constraints of a yacht galley and a strict time limit, the contestants set out from the famed Compagnia della Vela yacht club on a quest for this ultimate honor.

The winner was emerging young chef Henrico Grobbelaar of South Africa. At the tender age of 27, he is already executive chef of the prestigious Lady Phillips restaurant outside of Cape Town. “Just being here is an incredible honor that I just can’t believe is happening,” said Grobbelaar, who accepted the coveted silver trophy with the earnest determination of a future S. Pellegrino restaurant owner.