Norway claims top spot at prestigious cooking competition Bocuse d’Or

Norwegian chef Orjan Johannessen (second right) reacts as he wins the 2015 Bocuse d'Or cooking contest in Chassieu, near Lyon, January 28, 2015. — Reuters pic
Norwegian chef Orjan Johannessen (second right) reacts as he wins the 2015 Bocuse d'Or cooking contest in Chassieu, near Lyon, January 28, 2015. — Reuters pic

LYON, Jan 29 — For the fifth time, a team of chefs from Norway climbed the podium of the most prestigious cooking competition in the world, and heard their national anthem played throughout what could be described as the real kitchen stadium.

Team Norway, led by Orjan Johannessen, beat 23 other countries at the 15th edition of the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France, a culinary theatre that tests chefs’ kitchen skills and mental stamina.

Since the birth of the competition in 1987, which takes place every two years, France, Norway, Denmark and Sweden have taken turns climbing the gold-medal podium.

But the big story out of this year’s edition of the Bocuse d’Or was also the performance of Team USA, which nabbed the silver medal, the first time the country has won a medal. This year marks their 14th participation in the competition.

After years of disappointing and lacklustre performances, Team USA, led by Philip Tessier, executive chef of The French Laundry, was finally able to nab a win under the coaching of chef Grant Achatz and mentors Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud.

In an interview before leaving for Lyon, Achatz — who was likewise tapped as the honorary president for this year’s Bocuse d’Or — said it was hoped that his new role and a stellar performance from Team USA would bring the competition more exposure in the US, where the event fails to hold the same cachet as other countries.

Team Sweden, likewise a repeat medallist in the Bocuse d’Or, took bronze. Team France, which took gold medal in the last edition in 2013, failed to place.

Like the Olympics, where athletes are cheered on by legions of flag-waving fans and winning performances bring honour to their country, chefs were supported by a riotous cheering squad of 2,700 spectators who wore their country’s colours to the real-life kitchen stadium.

Over two days, teams from 24 countries were given 5.35 hours to cook the meal of their lives in a pressure cooker that included a live studio audience and a year’s worth of work and training on the line.

The 2015 edition saw a few changes, including the inaugural participation of Chile and the introduction of a ‘mystery ingredient’ a day before the competition, to add a sense of spontaneity to the event.

Teams are tasked with preparing a meat platter and fish dish. This year, chefs worked with Label Rouge farm-raised Landes guinea fowl and Fario river trout.

Dishes are judged for taste, presentation, waste optimisation, sustainability and hygiene. — AFP/Relaxnews

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