Bahena, 21, a Vernon Hills native, gets $10,000 and a yearlong paid apprenticeship with one of the chef judges of his choosing (who include luminaries such as Michel Richard and Chicago's own Tony Mantuano).
Bahena's dish, a Mediterranean lamb loin, also won in the Signature Dish category -- which puts an additional $3,000 in his wallet.
For the competition, Bahena recreated his dish from the Chicago regionals, but instead of making six full portions for judges, he had to make 200 tasting portions.
Bahena says he hasn't decided yet which chef he'll work for, though he adds, "I will say I plan on taking the opportunity to go work outside of Chicago for a while and come back with a whole new set of knowledge."
[photo courtesy S. Pellegrino]