Today through October 3, nominations are being accepted online at the Times Union Table Hopping blog. Nominees must meet any two of the following requirements:
• Chef/owner of a restaurant in operation for less than two years.The top 10 finalists chosen from among the nominees will be announced on October 15 at a Palace Theatre press conference. Voting will begin online that day, and continue through November 9.
• Uses innovative techniques (i.e., molecular gastronomy) in food production.
• First-time executive chef or executive sous chef.
• Has demonstrated a commitment to community service.
• Demonstrates originality and creativity in menu design.
• Promotes and utilizes local produce and ingredients when possible.
Each chef will be subjected to an unannounced tasting and interview during the balloting period and those activities will become part of their final score. The festival directors will review the finalists and announce the six winners on Wednesday, November 12. Those six then will be paired with a mentor from the festival's Signature Chef Team. The Rising Star Chefs will be featured in the timesunion.com Rising Star Chef Pavilion, three per each grand tasting.
The festival itself, a major fundraiser for local arts organizations, is scheduled for January 15-17 at the Hilton Albany. It is expected to bring together more than 70 chefs, wine and spirits and craft beer companies. Tickets will go on sale online on October 15. In its first five years, the festival has raised and donated $406,000 to various arts organization in Albany.