Day Two of the Bocuse D'Or USA competition was the big day, the day, the candidates had all dreamed about and worked for, hoping to be selected the next representative of the United States of America at the prestigious Bocuse D'Or competition in Lyon, France next January. The day started early for some with the first round of candidates starting at 6AM. Each team, composed of a chef and a commis, has 3.5 hours to present a platter built around Scottish salmon then another based on American lamb to the group of judges. One set of judges tastes all the salmon based dishes throughout the day and another set, the lamb. For the Bocuse D'Or in Lyon the judges comes from the competing teams. Thomas Keller represented the USA last year in Lyon. For this day's competition, each of the judges was an internationally known American chef.
Tasting the salmon, the judges were Grant Achatz, Paul Bartolotta, Timothy Hollingsworth, Paul Liebrandt, Walter Manzke and Eric Ziebold. For the lamb, they were Traci Des Jardins, Georges Perrier, André Soltner, Susan Spicer, Laurent Tourondel and Alan Wong. In addition to those judges, the central panel consisting of Mark Erickson, Jerome Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, Dr. Tim Ryan and Thomas Keller did the yeoman's work of tasting all the dishes. Besides the tasting judges, there were field judges who observed the candidates throughout their trials. These judges and umpires were composed of CIA faculty and internationally recognized chefs. Included amongst these chefs were such luminaries as David Chang, Daniel Patterson, Michael Cimarusti and Alain Sailhac amongst others. Chefs Daniel Humm and Gabriel Kreuther held special positions as umpires since each had a sous chef from his restaurant in the competition. Prior Bocuse D'Or US Representative, Gavin Kaysen moderated the event along with Kelly Choi.
Including the early morning session, there were three rounds of competition. One Manitowac designed and built kitchen at a time would start followed shortly after by the next kitchen and so on. After the allotted time, the first kitchen would have to present its salmon platter. The platter would be carried by umpires and presented to the judges and the audience before returning to a serving area for individual plating. Each of the other kitchens would follow in timed succession. Once done with the salmon, the team would have to hurry back to finish the plating of their lamb so that the process could be repeated. Once a team was finished it had to quickly break down and clean their kitchen so that the next round of competitors could set up. Drama and major disappointment ensued during the second flight when the first competitor, Jim Burke, the Executive Chef and owner of the Philadelphia restaurant James, was unable to successfully plate his salmon platter within the allotted time, essentially disqualifying him.
Fit in amongst the competition were more book signings, demos, a wonderful lunch and another panel discussion, this one on Maintaining Excellence. Moderated by food writers Heather Sperling and Andrew Friedman, the panel was composed of David Chang, Timothy Hollingsworth, Gabriel Kreuther, Georges Perrier,Grant Achatz, André Soltner, Alan Wong and Eric Ziebold. Much wisdom was dispensed with the highlights for me being the story of Grant Achatz' first car, built by him to be the fastest and loudest car on the road at age 16, simply to show himself that he could do it and the early days in France from Georges Perrier and André Soltner. With some time, I hope to post in more detail on both of the weekend' panel discussions.
The competition was grueling and fierce. Not having tasted any of the competitors' offerings, out of the preparations I saw, I was most impressed with the visual presentations of the eventual winner, James Kent. His work looked to me to be most like the quality of work I saw last year during the Bocuse D'Or in Lyon.
The evening ended in a wonderful, but unphotographed (by me) gala at The Culinary Institute of America, featuring the cooking of CIA staff as well as some of the guest chefs. The food was marvelous and so was the weekend! Now the hard part starts for Chef Kent and his commis, Tom Allan. I wish them the best of luck and hope to see them in Lyon in 2011!