I had never heard of the Bocuse d’Or competition until I it on Top Chef as a prize for winning an elimination challenge to be part of the team.  It’s clearly the top cooking competition in the world.  Yes, even more so than the Iron Chef America.  It’s really the cooking Olympics of the culinary world.  It’s named after Paul Bocuse, the then president of Salon des Métiers de Bouche [Culinary Sector Exhibition and Trade Fair].  This was one of the first, if not the original cooking competition where the cooking is live, with preparation and presentation of dishes in front of an audience.  The first competition took place in 1987, and as it evolved, so had the audience.  By 1997, in support of Mexico, there were marachi bands, foghorns, cowbells, etc. rooting on their compadres.  This competition takes place every 2 years and 2011 is the year of the Bucose d’Or.

The competition starts with 24 countries in the World Finals and each team consists of 2 chefs, 1 head chef and 1 sous/commis [who must be under 22 years of age at the time of the competition].  The competitors have 5 hours and 35 minutes to prepare 1 meat and 1 fish dish.  No food can be prepared [no cutting, no pre made stocks] ahead of time.  24 judges judge each team based on cooking technique, presentation, sophistication, creativity, and visual beauty.  Clearly, this isn’t something to be taken lightly and it’s a tremendous honor to win.

Having taking place in France until just recently, it’s no surprise that the home country has taken home the top prize 6 times.  Other European siblings such as Belgium, Norway, and Sweden have all faired well over the years.  America has never finished in the top 3.  Ever.  Highest finish for us is 6th place.  This year was no different.  The winner this year was Rasmus Kofoed of Denmark.  Rounding out the top three are chefs from Sweden and Norway.  Gavin Kaysen has represented the US in 2009, but this time, it was up to James Kent.  It just wasn’t his, or the USA’s, year.  Chef James Kent finished in 10th place.  Several food writers have been writing about the event and the aftermath, and it looks as though Chef Gavin Kaysen is particular devastated this year as the Coach.  Eater and Michael Rulman have both posted good articles about the Bocuse this year and after reading it, I realize just how much pressure and stress goes into the preparation of the event and in 5.5 hours, it’s all over.

I wonder where it stops.  Is it not enough that we have the coveted Michelin Stars, the pressure in attaining and keeping it.  The pressure of just surviving in an industry that has a failure rate near 60%-70%.  I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, while it would be great to see the US take home the Bocuse d’Or, I’m quite happy eating away at a French Laundry, a Per Se, Lolita, Momofuku, and the like.  It doesn’t matter to me that none these world class chefs have never represented the US at the Bocuse d’Or.   I’m happy living in my bubble, where good food is easy to find, but great food transforms an experience to something special.  And even though Chef James Kent didn’t win the Bocuse d’Or, I know his restaurant Eleven Madison Park is amazing and a must try for me when we go back to New York.