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Bocuse d’Or American Team Competition

Today, I had the unique experience of attending the second day of the competition at the Culinary Institute of America for the American team which will head to Lyon, France in 2013 to take part in the global cooking contest known as the Bocuse d’Or, named after renowned French chef Paul Bocuse who is known for promoting la nouvelle cuisineKitchenAid supplied tickets to several fellow food writers and me to watch this event.  We all piled on a very early train to head up to Hyde Park, not really sure what to expect.  What was fascinating to me, as it turns out, is the process by which the whole thing unfolded.

The four teams cooked in one of each of these purpose-built kitchen setups (above).  The competition would select one Chef and one Commis (or assistant) to go to Lyon next year to compete as one of the 24 teams for the bronze, silver, or gold medals of the Bocuse. They each had to prepare one dish featuring River & Glen “hookers” cod and one with D’Artagnan air-chilled chicken.

Here’s another view of the cooking stations, complete with the other chefs attending or judging the competition watching the proceedings.  There were a total of 60 points that were at stake for a team.  Forty points were for taste; twenty points were available for presentation; and, in the event, of a tie, points would be awarded for methodology, which is why the chef judges were also watching the way the competing chefs were working on their dishes.  Later on, I also found out that one of the other areas that was considered was the cleanliness of the stations at the end of all the cooking.

You can see Chef Daniel Boulud dropping by to watch Chef Jeffrey Lizotte, who works at ON20 in Hartford, Connecticut, after cooking in the kitchens of David Bouley and Eric Ripert.  I noticed that his bio said that he had been at the now-closed Danube, which was a favorite restaurant of my parents and I, so I might have actually eaten his cooking on one of my trips there.

I kind of had a soft spot for the team of Chef Richard Rosendale and Corey Siegel, for no other reason than the fact that they are sort of from around my neck of the woods and I’ve always been a bit fascinated by The Greenbrier, maybe I’ll even get to stay there one day.  Look at this floor’s eye view of all these chefs crowding around the cooking station.  Can you see the time on the clock?  The chefs had 5 1/2 hours to cook and this was about an hour or so away from the buzzer.

Here’s Team 1, part of the way through, focusing on how to get all the preparation done.  Chef Danny Cerqueda and his Commis, James Haibach, hail from the Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Another tidbit I picked up while I was at the event is that the Commis must be no more than 23 years old on the date of the final competition in France.

Like any good competition, this battle had its fans.  This is a photo of the audience early on in the morning.  Chef Jeff Lizotte’s team had t-shirts made with their names on them to support efforts and that of his Commis, Kevin Curley.  I had to say, though, that I think that Chef Richard Rosendale had some of the most enthusiastic cheering crowd, and I hope that the photo of them my fellow attendee Ken of Hungry Rabbit comes out clearly so that you can see just how passionate everyone was about their chosen chef.

When the judging started to get underway, the chefs were called to the table.  Some of this group would evaluate the fish dishes and some the meat dishes.

The judges also had time to study the recipes that the competing chefs had prepared.

They compared some notes and talked to each other.  What were they discussing?

The servers stood behind each of the judges, ready to serve the finished plates.

You know how your food-obsessed friends always photograph their food before eating it (and they do the same to yours, too). Well, it was no different with the chefs at the event today. For some great photos of all of the dishes from the judging table itself, check out the photos that Chef Gavin Kaysen, a former Bocuse competitor and team coach, Tweeted around. I haven’t mentioned Chef Bill Bradley, an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Massachusetts, as I got stuck on the opposite side of the auditorium from his station, but you can see his work in Chef Kaysen’s pictures.

All of the day’s events were also broadcast on huge screen so that the audience could follow along with every detail of the work the chefs were doing.  This is the fish dish from Team 3, Richard Rosendale and Corey Siegel.

Chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller sample one of the dishes.

Between the dishes coming out, even the chefs seemed to be anticipating what the next plating would look like and taste.  You can see Chef Grant Achatz on the left in the photo.

Head coach Jérôme Bocuse, a chef, son of the award’s founder, member of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, and a head coach for the teams, waiting to see which dish is next.

A viewing of the chicken dish put together by Danny Cerqueda.  Here is the view from where Gavin Kaysen sat.  You can see that it wasn’t easy to get a photo of it with all the competing cameras vying for the best shot.  The dishes were then plated for the chefs to taste and judge.

From the screen, here is what Richard Rosendale’s chicken dish looked like.  How about whipping this up for your next dinner party?  It was quite impressive, as the chefs prepared not only the meat portion but also had to create the vegetables and the sides in the allotted time as well.  Seeing the work (alas, not tasting it, however) that the teams did today and knowing that this is the spirit and heart that they bring to their food every day, was really inspiring.

At this point, I had to leave the competition to head back to the city, prior to the winners being revealed.  Richard Rosendale, the chef from The Greenbrier, whose chicken dish was the one pictured above, was announced as the American candidate to go to Lyon in 2013 to represent the United States in this international event.  Here’s an article from The Wall Street Journal that profiles the prep work by the Malaysian team for the event held in 2011.  Good luck to Chef Rosendale and his team on their way to France next year!

Acknowledgements

I can’t sign off before acknowledging KitchenAid, who supplied the the ticket for me to be able to attend this event.  I accepted this offer as I thought it would be a different way to experience the hard work and dedication that food professionals bring to their craft, and I’ve grown up with and use their products in my own kitchen.

As a bonus, a few of the other writers and I also got to take a peek at couple of the new KitchenAid appliances as well.  The 13-cup food processor pictured above is even more beautiful in person.  As Emily of Nominvorous said, “You really listed to what people said they wanted.”  There’s more choice in slicing options and speeds, the funnel sizes are different depending upon what you are feeding into the large bowl, there’s a rubber seal to keep all those liquids safe inside the bowl, and the handle is sturdily attached to the side, making it easy to grab to remove the contents of the processor.  I kind of fell in love with this, which is why I’m raving about it so much here.

Another piece of equipment that we got to look at that would make me clear off my counter to make room is the 7-quart Stand Mixer.  Again, it has some new features and speeds as well as design improvements.  This photo is of the commercial standard version that they have, although they do have one designed more for the home chef as well.  Just think of all the great things you could make with this at your side.

Buon appetito!