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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Frank About... The Bocuse d'Or World Cuisine Contest

Until I picked up the book Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition by Andrew Friedman, I had never heard about the Bocuse d'Or World Cuisine Contest. I had heard of the Culinary Olympics that take place in Germany every four years; but the Bocuse d'Or is not to be confused with the Culinary Olympics. Friedman's work followed the training and performance of the 2009 Team USA's Captain Timothy Hollingsworth and Commis Adina Guest of Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Napa, California. It's a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it if you have any desire to learn more about the behind the scenes of a real cooking competition.

So, you ask... "What IS the Bocuse d'Or, Frank?" Well, you're in luck; I just happen to feel like dropping some Food Nerdery on you all, today!

Chef Paul Bocuse
In 1987, renowned French chef and ambassador of modern French cuisine, Paul Bocuse, started the biennial contest as a way to showcase a cooking competition performed live in front of an audience. It has been told that the French wanted their own cooking competition, to show their superiority in cuisine, rather than having to go to Germany and not fare so well. So, every two years, teams of two (a Captain and his/her Commis) from 24 countries gather in Lyon, France for the two day competition. They have five and a half hours to complete a meat platter and a fish platter, each with three original garnishes, for the 24 judges. The proteins are announced in advance, in order for proper training, and to become familiar with the specific meat and fish.

The Bocuse d'Or has become a very popular competition in all the participating countries, going as far as having loud, boisterous audiences for each country in the audience while the cooking takes place. There has never been much enthusiasm from the people of the United States. In a world where reality and competition shows rule the airwaves, you would imagine people would clammer to cheer on Team USA and do well keeping up-to-date with the happenings.

This is something that has plagued The Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation. Other countries have provided very large budgets and well-structured training regimen for their teams. In 2008, it was decided that Team USA needed more structure in their training, needed an order to how the team was selected, and overall more support.

The Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation was formed. Daniel Boulud, Jérôme Bocuse (the son of Paul Bocuse), and Thomas Keller make up the Board of Directors. They formed a competition system in the United States to select the representatives to the event in France, to take place approximately a year before the world competition, and a means to fund their team more appropriately.
Team USA Captain Richard Rosendale (l) and Commis Corey Siegel (r)
Captain Richard Rosendale, Executive Chef of The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia & Certified Master Chef, along with his Commis Corey Siegel, beat out three other teams to win the Bocuse d’Or USA on January 28-29, 2012 at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Team USA also includes Coach Gavin Kaysen (2007 competitor, asst coach 2009, 2011) and Tasting Board members Grant Achatz and Gabriel Kreuther.

An exact duplicate of their competition kitchen in Lyon, France was constructed in the basement of The Greenbrier, in order for Rosendale and Siegel to train to the precise size and shape of the competition area, and to the time and schedule they will need in actual competition.

This year's Bocuse d'Or takes place January 29-30, 2013. The meat to be used has been announced as Irish beef filet, with the option to use ox cheek, chuck, and ox tail. The fish dish was very delayed in being announced, and is turbot and European blue lobster.

There were also some major twists revealed, in how the fish platter is to be prepared and presented. Instead of the platter to serve fourteen people, the teams must prepare fourteen individual plates, as they would in a restaurant setting.

On the eve of the contest, the candidates will have 30 minutes to choose seasonal fruit and vegetables from something called the five continents market. They will use the produce and ingredients to prepare two of the three garnishes on the day of the contest. After having acquired the produce and ingredients from the market, the candidates, together with their coach and commis, will have one hour in which to design and write down the recipe for their dish. Then, to highlight the different national culinary heritages and encourage diversity, the third garnish will be typical of the candidates’ respective countries. This new guideline should lead to the introduction of local produce and ingredient. This concept of local has not been seen in the Bocuse d’Or, before now. 

It should be noted that Team USA has never placed better than sixth, on two occasions. Each year, the expectations are high. Let's hope to see them win it all, this year!

Here are some examples of the type of presentations you would see at the Bocuse d'Or: 

Chef Rosendale's chicken platter that won the 2012 Bocuse d'Or USA

Team USA's Lamb platter in the 2011 Bocuse d'Or
Team USA's Monkfish platter in the 2011 Bocuse d'Or
Team USA's Fish platter from the 2009 Bocuse d'Or
Team Denmark's winning Fish platter from 2011 Bocuse d'Or
Team Denmark's winning Fish plate in the 2011 Bocuse d'Or

Frankly Speaking...

Ever since reading Knives at Dawn..., I was hooked on keeping up with the Bocuse d'Or. I find it very fascinating to keep up on the action, and training, of Team USA. I am a huge food geek, though. Even if you don't get excited about things quite this deep, I hope you are at least aware that this takes place, and our country takes part in it.

The platters that these chefs conceptualize is simply mind-boggling and incredible. They have show pieces created just for the presentation of their food. That entire year of training has to materialize into a platter of food that is stunning in its presentation, innovative in its creation, original in its existence, and lastly, delicious and perfected seasoned, balanced, and prepared.

As a side note, part of the competiton is a poster contest! Yes, just like in grade school for "Say No to Drugs Week". Each team has to design their poster, and are voted upon to choose a winner. Here is Team USA's poster:

How can you keep up on the 2013 competition?

Easily! Social media has provided some great means to get all the up-to-date news and happenings!

You can follow Team USA on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their website.

You can keep up with the official Bocuse d'Or feeds, also on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. You should post a picture of one of their platters. Good story, though!

  2. Great idea, Carey! I will get some examples of the platters posted.