Monday, February 7, 2011

The Bocuse d'Or 2011

 The Bocuse what? you might ask - although you would know all about it if you had read this post from 2009 (which discusses a film about the Spanish 2007 bid and also explains the workings of the competition). While at home Queenslanders have been a bit preoccupied with floods over in France one of their number has been flying the Australian flag at the Bocuse d'Or in Lyon, France. You wouldn't know much about this event if you relied on the Australian press  (I could only find one recent reference here) but it seems to be taken pretty seriously in Europe and increasingly so in the USA.
 This year the 24 contestants had to prepare a meat platter, using two saddles of lamb, including the kidneys, and one shoulder, and a seafood platter using two monkfish, twenty langoustines and four crabs. The end results are presented on huge platters and paraded before the 24 judges, 12 of who sample the meat dishes and the other 12 taste the fish.
 What remains a bit of a mystery  is what the judges are looking for. The Americans were very disappointed with their performance, coming 10th, and attribute their lack of success to not understanding the 'game', 'the defined game in the way that the food should be presented'. Given that any bid doesn't come cheaply it would seem fundamental to understand what is expected before competing. Obviously all the chefs who enter know how to cook so is the competition less to do with execution and more about style?  Apparently the winning platter needs to demonstrate passion and originality and be a true expression of the chef.
The winning team from Denmark scored 1014 points; only six other teams scored more than 900; the Americans scored 864. Of the thirteen competitions held since 1987 France has won six times and Norway four times. The place getters have always been European or Scandinavian teams with the exception of Singapore who scored a bronze in 1989. Clearly some contestants have a better idea of what the judges are looking for than others in particular Rasmus Kofoed who won gold for Denmark this year, silver in 2007 and bronze in 2005!
This clip sums up his approach to the 'game'

What I don't really understand is what the chefs gain from this sort of contest. As Grant Achatz points out competition cooking has little or nothing to do with restaurant cooking and, despite the fact that he was a judge of the Bocuse d'Or USA which chose the team to go on to Lyon this year, he quite bluntly says
'Historically, most chefs in the U.S. could not see the benefit of devoting time and energy to train for a competition that would not further their careers, even if they did win.'

Our local boy was Russell Clarke, senior sous chef at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Perhaps one of the reasons why there hasn't been much publicity of the event here has something to do with the result - the Australians came in at number 20 with a score of 711.

For information about the Bocuse d'Or see here
For Grant Achatz on the Bocuse d"or USA see here
For Michael Ruhlman's coverage of the 2011 event see here, here and here
For another first hand report on the US bid see here, and for a report on how the British team fared see here

And if anyone can tell me how to embed a YouTube video so that it doesn't take over the whole page I would be forever grateful.

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