Why is Bocuse d'Or the world's most prestigious culinary contest?

The young chef Matthieu Otto will represent France in the Bocuse d'Or, January 30. — Picture courtesy of Bocuse d'Or France/Studio Julien Bouvier via AFP
The young chef Matthieu Otto will represent France in the Bocuse d'Or, January 30. — Picture courtesy of Bocuse d'Or France/Studio Julien Bouvier via AFP

PARIS, Jan 14 — Every other year, the start of the year brings the Bocuse d'Or final. This culinary competition, seeking out the finest young talent, will see 24 chefs from all around the world go head to head in Lyon, France, January 29 and 30, in a live event with an atmosphere worthy of a soccer stadium.

The contest, created in 1987 by Paul Bocuse, has risen to gain prestige status in the world of gastronomy.

International contest

The Bocuse d'Or has no equivalent on the international level. Moreover, while chefs owe its creation to the famous French chef Paul Bocuse (in 1987), the competition brings together talents from all around the world, across all continents.

The Bocuse d'Or generally comes into the spotlight once every two years, at the time of its final. However, the contest is far from dormant between finals, with selections taking place on each continent for 18 months.

In total, 67 countries took part in the different selection phases. For Africa, six countries were candidates: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia.

Global talent

Echoing its international aura, the Bocuse d'or has shone light on different world cuisines by integrating new nationalities represented by its candidates. This year, for example, Tunisia will participate in the competition. Indeed, the Bocuse d'Or defines itself as an "observatory of the diversity of culinary heritage around the world."

Colossal challenge

In a supercharged atmosphere of tension and excitement, with a live audience comprising students from hotel management and hospitality schools, the 24 finalists must stay focused for five hours, 35 minutes.

Supported by a coach — whose role is to keep their chef focused on their objectives, not to help in the kitchen — the young chefs must create a dish skillfully presented on a silver platter.

Intended to serve 14 people, this part of the final is particularly technical. It includes a hot dish, as well as the preparation of four side dishes — three of which are mandatory — and sauces, one of free composition. For this 2019 edition, the candidates will pay homage to Paul Bocuse by preparing a suckling veal rack with five prime chops.

As if that wasn't enough, the chefs must also work on a second challenge, “the plate.' This is a hot dish to serve 16 people. In homage to Joël Robuchon — who was the first honorary president of the Bocuse d'Or, as well as the most recent, in 2017 — the chefs will be tasked with creating vegetable chartreuse with shellfish. During this imposed test, the jury expects candidates to show off the full extent of their creativity.

Finalists will be judged by the 2017 Bocuse d'Or winner, the American chef Mathew Peters, as well as this year's honorary president, chef Christophe Bacquié of the triple-Michelin-starred Hôtel du Castellet in Provence. — AFP-Relaxnews