The Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine contest, the brainchild of Chef Paul Bocuse first took place in 1987 in Lyon, France. Chef Bucose is one of the most respected chefs in the world and his contest is the pinnacle of culinary competitions. The contest is held in Lyon, France every two years. The next one is scheduled for January 29-30, 2013.
But this year—last weekend to be exact—four chefs converged in Hyde Park, NY at the Culinary Institute of America to compete. The winner will go on to the competition in Lyon, France, and will face chefs from twenty-three other countries. The rules for the competition this past weekend are exactly like the rules in France. Each contestant, along with his commis (assistant), has five and one half hours to create two elaborate platter dishes, one seafood and one meat, along with three original garnishes.The competition was held at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. It was a spectacle of culinary excellence, complete with the heavy bass beat of house music, huge television screens hanging in the air (so the audience could see the details of the chef’s progress), the crowd cheering and ringing their Bocuse d’Or cowbells, and waving balloons and Bocuse d’Or tea towels in the air.
The excitement was palpable as the chefs took knives in hand and proceeded to create culinary masterpieces from their kitchen cubicles while some of the most prestigious celebrity chefs mingled with the audience. It was not uncommon to turn around and engage in a conversation with the likes of Daniel Boloud (Daniel, DB Bistro Moderne, Café Boloud/NYC), Thomas Keller (Per Sé /NYC, The French Laundry/Yountville, CA), Barbara Lynch (No. 9 Park/Boston, MA), Grant Achatz (Alinea/Chicago, IL), and fellow Alabamian Chris Hastings (Hot and Hot Fish Club/Birmingham, AL).
The excitement heightened as the contestants started plating their creations and the wait staff brought the plates to the judges for tasting and judging. Saturday’s festivities celebrated the commis. The four of them competed for gold, silver, and bronze prizes. This competition was a warm up for Sunday’s main event.
It was a taste of this grand competition for the four rookies. Rachel Weiss, who is graduating from the French Culinary Institute this week and is an extern at Gramercy Tavern took home the gold for the commis competition with her interpretation of the Paul Bocuse classic dish Poulet Au Vinaigre.
Sunday was the day for the four chefs to compete for the honor of going to Lyon, France. And also the day of the super large crowds. On Saturday during the commis competition I was allowed on the floor of the competition, mingling among the contestants and the chef judges and quietly making my photos. On Sunday, only press was allowed on the floor to take photos. Where was my press pass? But I did my best to find the right angles to capture the excitement of the day in photos (from a distance).
At the awards ceremony, I grabbed a seat on the floor in front of the winner’s circle. The excitement mounted as the fourth place winner was announced: Danny Cerqueda, Executive Sous Chef of The Carolina Country Club in Raleigh North Carolina. William Bradley, Chef Instructor at the Le Cordon Bleu in Cambridge, Massachusetts, took the bronze metal. Jeffrey Lizotte, Chef de Cuisine at ON20 in Hartford, Connecticut went home with the silver prize. And the grand prize winner of the Bocuse d’Or USA 2012 was Richard Rosendale, executive chef of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
In the twenty-five year history of Paul Bocuse’s competition, an American has yet to win. Will 2013 be the year that Richard Rosendale shows the world that an American can take home the gold from Lyon, France? Tune in next January 29-30 to find out. Or better yet, hop on a plane and experience the thrill of the live competition. It’s bound to offer as much excitement as anyone will be able to stand.
Many thanks go out to KictchenAid who made it possible for me to attend this event.