Unless you have almost completely forsworn television (which sometimes does not seem such a bad idea), you cannot help but be aware of the proliferation of programs that pit chef against chef in heated competitions to win the favor of panels of experts (some professionals, some not) to gain fame, if not fortune, in the increasingly celebrity-crazed world of cooking.
I have seen my share, and I have to say that I find the ritualized humiliation distasteful and dispiriting, an exception being the Iron Chef battles that pit professionals against professionals in transparent one-on-one culinary duels that I think yield honest and interesting results.
Lost amid the welter of hype and hysteria is a competition that I follow with great interest: the biennial Bocuse d’Or international cooking contest. Many will recognize the name of the founder, Paul Bocuse, the legendary French chef whose eponymous restaurant in Collonges, near Lyon, has held three Michelin stars for decades. Bocuse created the competition to bring attention to the most talented chefs in the world and the enormous amount of work and dedication they bring to their craft.
Every two years, 24 countries are each invited to send a team of one chef and one assistant. Over five-and-a-half hours, they prepare two dishes, one based on seafood and the other on meat, and present them to a panel of 24 leading professional chefs. They are judged on the harmony of the dishes, the presentation, the techniques employed to create them and the efficiency and proficiency of each team.
France won the 2013 tournament, which finished just hours ago. Thibaut Ruggeri of La Maison Lenôtre received the gold statue, as well as 20,000 euros. Denmark’s Jeppe Foldager of Søllerød Kro finished second, while Japan’s Noriyuki Hamada of Hotel Bleston Court won the bronze. The U.S. team of Richard Rosendale (The Greenbrier resort) and his assistant, Corey Siegel, finished in seventh place.