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How U.S. chefs prepare for the culinary Olympics

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Restaurant and Foodservice

Next month in Lyon, France, a U.S. culinary team led by Chef Richard Rosendale will face off against chefs from 23 other nations in the Bocuse d’Or, an international contest in which America’s best has come in sixth place so far. Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation spokesman Aaron Ginsberg talks about how the contest works and what the foundation and the American culinary community are doing to help the home team succeed.

The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation was formed in 2008 to support the U.S. team, but it also appears that the mission has grown to include many more ways to support young chefs. Can you talk about how the organization has evolved?

Yes, the foundation was formed in 2008 by Chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse. The goal has always been to support the USA Team in competing on the international stage at the Bocuse d’Or, but also to foster the talent of young culinarians. We’ve supported these younger chefs through a scholarship program and also by hosting the Commis Competition, the first of which was hosted by The Culinary Institute of America this past January.

How do chefs prepare for the competition?

Each chef to represent America since 2009 has prepared in a different way, but this year, Richard Rosendale’s preparation is unlike any other American chef. Richard has a very rigorous and thorough training schedule that is planned out for the entire year. Since February, he has been practicing and perfecting various components of his dishes while running through timed practice runs to ensure he is well prepared when arriving in Lyon next year. Richard has also incorporated physical training into his regimen: running, weight lifting and following an eating plan to better his endurance, quickness and concentration in the kitchen.

How was Richard Rosendale chosen to lead the team? How many chefs competed?

Richard is the main chef, or captain for the team, and he is assisted by Corey Siegel, his commis. They have a great working relationship as Corey has been an apprentice at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., under Richard’s tutelage.

Describe how the competition works.

The competition has been held since 1987 (it was founded by legendary Chef Paul Bocuse) and it brings together 24 nations and some of the best chefs in the world. Each chef has 5.5 hours to prepare their platter and plates, uninterrupted, in front of thousands of spectators. The judges, one from each country competing, evaluate the overall harmony of flavors in the dish, the presentation of the platter, the techniques employed and the efficiency in which the teams work.

Is there a distinctly American culinary style that Team USA will demonstrate?

One of the judging requirements is that each country reflect their own culinary style in the dishes presented. We can’t reveal how we aim to showcase the American culinary style, but it will be present.

An American team has never placed higher than sixth in the contest. Why do you think that is?

Many of the teams which have placed, or won the Bocuse d’Or, have had more time to practice and greater resources at their disposal. One of the main goals behind forming the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation was to help provide these resources and a training structure to our chefs as they compete, hopefully leveling the playing field.

How has the foundation’s work addressed that? Will 2013 be the year for Team USA?

We’ve been able to raise awareness greatly among chefs, the media and Americans to help gain support for our team each competition. In raising awareness, we’ve been able to raise funds that help support our efforts as a nonprofit. … We’ve also been fortunate enough to have an elite group of chefs on our Culinary Council and coaching staff, chefs such as Gavin Kaysen, Grant Achatz and Gabriel Kreuther, among others. We’ll just have to wait and see on Jan. 30, 2013 how things go! Readers of yours can tune into our Facebook page along the way to get timely updates on the competition and the team’s progress once they travel to Lyon.