Bocuse d'Or Team USA

James Kent, left, and Tom Allan will represent the US in Lyon this week.

What do culinary competitions mean in America? Reality shows on Bravo and the Food Network pitting chefs against one another have made compelling TV and earned huge audiences here, but actual not-made-for-TV competitions remain off the radar. American chefs who competed in them were relative unknowns, and the most well-known chefs, those with high profile restaurants, tended to dismiss them for their old fashioned, aspic-coated food platters and the hotel and country club chefs who created them.

But in 2008, one of the most revered chefs in the world, Paul Bocuse, famed both for his food and his restaurant as well as his unusual media savvy, aimed to change that by attempting to elevate the competition he created in 1987 in the eyes of America. To do this, he asked two of America’s most famous and revered chefs, Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller to lead an effort to do just this, bring high profile chefs into the competition arena. To do this, they created a non-profit foundation, Bocuse d’Or USA, that could raise money to fund the training, food, and travel required for the competition.

In 2009, Timothy Hollingsworth, long time French Laundry chef, now its chef de cuisine, trained and competed in the competition, the first time really that the American team had actual financial and personnel support, training facitities, and a coach, Keller mentor and competition veteran, Roland Henin. (The entire process and the competition itself is well documented in Andrew Friedman’s Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d’Or Competition.)

This year, James Kent and Tom Allan (photo above courtesy of Bocuse d’Or USA), sous chefs at the excellent New York restaurant 11 Madison beat 11 other teams at the Culinary Institute of America to represent America.

One of Team USA’s primary sponsors is All-Clad. In an effort to make more people aware of the competition, All-Clad is sending me and eater.com’s Joshua David Stein to Lyon to cover the events for social media. I’ll be posting frequently on All-Clad’s fb page, as well as writing about it here, and on Twitter. All-Clad has made it clear that they don’t care what we write only that we write. What they want is more awareness for the competition itself. And I’m all for that.

As for the validity of the competition itself?  Read these thought and frank remarks form Grant Achatz, in The Atlantic, who helped judge the 12 teams at the CIA, on competition and creativity versus technical execution.

Related links:

Bocuse d’Or brief bio of James Kent.

And a selection of eater.com’s coverage.

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17 Wonderful responses to “Bocuse d’Or 2011”

  • Nicole

    Found Knives at Dawn fascinating and am looking forward to an easy way to follow the news of the competition. Thanks so much!

  • Three-Cookies

    Very interesting to read. Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Jamie Oliver and many other well known EU chefs have made it to the US but I am not aware of well known US chefs making much appearance in Europe. I wonder whether one of the reasons for establishing Bocuse d’Or USA was to minimise risks of a similar competition being established in US.

  • Earl Schiffke

    ” have made compelling TV and earned huge audiences here”

    And what series might they be ? Compelling ? Are you serious ?

    Certainly not that crap Food Network spews out. The Next Iron Chef which you know intimately is a joke and makes more like jackass TV.

    A few isolated moments on Top Chef might be somewhat a bit compelling, but a majority of food reality TV blows bigtime.

    • ruhlman

      ok, then popular among a certain fan base…for better or worse. I was rather fond of cooking under fire and the first season of Next Iron Chef….

      • Earl Schiffke

        The first season was OK, but the past two have been just ridiculous.What are they going to do ? Appoint a new Iron Chef once a year ? I think it has totally jumped the shark.

        As for Iron Chef America , it might stand to find some qualified “judges” for the “adjudication” process. There is only a small handful (include yourself) that make any sense when tasting the food. The appointment of many of these bozo judges just makes a mockery of the show and the real efforts the competing chefs put out.

  • Jay

    Is there really an “s” on the end of “Lyon” as your caption indicates?

  • rich sims

    MR, this has to be the assignment of the year, can’t wait ot read about it!

  • Frank Reiter

    That book was fantastic! I really look forward to your updates, Michael.

    I have a quick question, since I’ve been searching, and cannot find the answer: When does Team USA actually compete? Is it today, or tomorrow?

    Thanks.

    • ruhlman

      The gun goes off for them at 10 am here in Lyon. 4 am Eastern. They have 5.5 hrs to complete meat and fish platters and twelve plated portions of each. @fakejoshstein and i will be tweeting using hashtag #bocusedor from the get go, for any insomniacs.

      • Frank Reiter

        Thanks for the info, Michael. I appreciate it. And I am enjoying keeping up with the updates!

  • Natalie Sztern

    The Bocuse D’or is very exciting. I have watched it on television for a few years now although I cannot remember which station, PBS perhaps? Give a shout out to the Canadian team and wish them luck; we have been considered too nice in the past; this year though I understand we won’t be.

  • Cali

    Earl Schiffke
    The first season was OK, but the past two have been just ridiculous.What are they going to do ? Appoint a new Iron Chef once a year ? I think it has totally jumped the shark.
    As for Iron Chef America , it might stand to find some qualified “judges” for the “adjudication” process. There is only a small handful (include yourself) that make any sense when tasting the food. The appointment of many of these bozo judges just makes a mockery of the show and the real efforts the competing chefs put out.

    I have to agree that many of the Iron Chef judges are completely unqualified. I can’t understand why there are certain actors, athletes, rappers and other assorted “celebrities” who have never even eaten the “secret” ingredient before. The judges SHOULD be culinary professionals not “celebrities.” I think it makes a mockery of the entire process.

  • Cali

    I have to agree that many of the Iron Chef judges are completely unqualified. I can’t understand why there are certain actors, athletes, rappers and other assorted “celebrities” who have never even eaten the “secret” ingredient before. The judges SHOULD be culinary professionals not “celebrities.” I think it makes a mockery of the entire process.

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