French chef Paul Bocuse created the Bocuse d’Or culinary competition in 1987 with a structure based on major sporting events, resulting in a spectacle dedicated to cooking and chefs. Having attended in 2009 and 2011, I refer to it as an “Olympics of chefs and their skills.”
Twenty-four of the most promising young chefs from five continents were brought together to prepare dishes in front of a live audience. A jury of well-known and established chefs picked the winners.
This competition has helped place talented young chefs in the spotlight and serves as a valuable tool for promoting tourism. Winning several times, Scandinavian countries have become known as leaders in gastronomy.
Changing a Successful Formula
After 25 years of success, Bocuse felt it was time for a change. He has worked with Bocuse d’Or’s International Organization Committee for a year. Under leadership of Régis Marcon and consulting chefs worldwide, new requirements will represent a new challenge for candidates, which will stretch their creativity. This change made it necessary to revise competition regulations.
But results will mean more spontaneity and improvisation, and will allow more attention to each country’s culinary traditions.
There are the two main reasons for change:
• Teams need to prepare a for long time before the final event—usually a minimum of one year. While resulting dishes are exceptional, there has been little room for improvisation and creativity on the day of final competition.
• As European nations have consistently won the coveted prizes, candidates decided to play it safe, focusing more on Western dishes and taking away surprises. Yet one of the original principles of Bocuse d’Or is diversity of national culinary traditions.
While maintaining fundamental features such as excellence, taste, entertainment, and aesthetics, new regulations bring new energy.
According to the committee, the 14th Bocuse d’Or will be the most entertaining to date and will include more creativity and spontaneity, better promotion of culinary traditions, less waste, and a more eco-responsible approach.
New features issued for the 2013 competition from Bocuse d’Or are:
A New Fish Dish
• The theme will be a secret until the end of November 2012.
• Candidates will not be allowed to bring their ingredients with them. The day before competition, they will have 1.5 hours to shop and choose seasonal products for preparing two of their side dishes.
• A third side dish must showcase each country’s culinary traditions with a typical national dish.
• Each candidate, with assistance from his/her coach and commis (chef), will have to create and write the recipe the day before competition, based on products selected.
• To respect constraints of food service, candidates will prepare 14 servings, 12 of which will be presented to the fish jury, one to the presidents’ table, and one for an official photo.
Meat Dish Theme
• For the 14th Bocuse d’Or, Bord Bia (Irish Food Board) will supply premium grass-fed Irish beef filet, accompanied by paleron, cheek, and tail. The original spirit of the competition will be retained, with meat being presented on a dish with three freely chosen side dishes.
• A new marketing criterion has been added to the mix—geographic specific and originality. This geographic-specific mark will be awarded by the tasting jury, in addition to marks related to taste and presentation. It will be based on the entire dish for the meat event, but only on the typical national side dish for the fish event.
• The creation of a kitchen jury. This jury will be chaired by a member of the International Organization Committee and comprises two Bocuse d’Or Winners Academy members and four coaches from teams not competing that day.
With this new jury, it means that hygiene, waste, teamwork, and respect for the fish recipe created the day before the event, will all be decisive in clinching Bocuse d’Or award. Until now, marks by the Surveillance Committee were only used to pick a winner in the event of a tie. This year, the mark given by the kitchen jury will count for 20 percent of the final score.
Last, in order to be sure the audience has better contact, the jury may penalize candidates who do not work facing the public or if they do not serve meat in one piece or reconstituted.
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