Chef Kofoed Rasmus of Denmark today won the Bocuse d’Or, a biannual cooking contest that draws the elite of the culinary world to the French city of Lyon.
Rasmus was victorious in a competition where spectators pack the grandstands to cheer on their national teams. The runner-up was Tommy Myllymaki (Sweden). The third place went to Gunnar Hvarnes (Norway). The best meat platter prize was won by France and the best fish award by Switzerland.
“This is not a reality television show, it’s a real competition,” Daniel Boulud, the chef best known for Daniel in New York, said before the result was known. “It’s important for the restaurant industry to give young chefs an ambitious challenge and it’s the responsibility of established chefs to support them.” He was dining with Thomas Keller of Per Se at Brasserie de l’Est.
Keller is president of the Bocuse d’Or USA foundation and Boulud is chairman. They were in Lyon to back the U.S. competitor James Kent, sous chef at Eleven Madison Park. With his “commis” assistant Tom Allan, the New Yorker beat 11 teams in a contest at the Culinary Institute of America.
The competition, which opened yesterday, was spread over two days at Sirha, the Salon International de la Restauration, de l’Hotellerie et de l’Alimentation. The participating teams reached the finals in regional contests in Shanghai, Geneva and other cities around the world.
The U.K. was represented by Simon Hulstone, 36, of the Elephant restaurant in Torquay, who won the Roux Scholarship in 2003 and was named U.K. National Chef of the Year in 2008. He finished 10th in the Bocuse d’Or last time around, in 2009.
“It’s incredibly nerve-racking but I like the buzz about it,” Hulstone said before the result was known. “I’m happy with what we are going to produce.
“The aim is to put the U.K. on the map for 2013 to make people think more about it and bring in more sponsorship. The buildup has been good and people are talking about it.”
Hulstone, who was chosen by the Academy of Culinary Arts, was being joined in the kitchen by Jordan Bailey of the Elephant and mentored by Nick Vadis, executive chef of Compass Group. Chef Brian Turner was the U.K. judge.
“It’s the first time the British really have decided to support their candidate financially and I’m backing him,” Chef Albert Roux said in an interview on board an EasyJet evening flight to Lyon on Jan. 24.
Chef Paul Bocuse founded the contest in 1987 and 24 teams compete in the finals. The first winner was a Frenchman, Jacky Freon, who got $10,000 in prize money and the trophy, designed by the sculptor Cesar. The winner last time, in 2009, was Geir Skeie of Norway.
“It seems to be the top competition in the world and people come from every country to participate: There’s nothing to compare,” said Pierre Koffmann, the French-born chef at Koffmann’s in London and a former holder of three Michelin stars.
The competition traditionally has been dominated by French and Nordic chefs. Past winners are: France (1987), Luxembourg (1989), France (1991), Norway (1993), France (1995), Sweden (1997), Norway (1999), France (2001), Norway (2003), France (2005), France (2007) and Norway (2009).
Candidates have five hours to produce a fish platter and meat platter from a specified weight and cut, with a minimum of three garnishes on each plate. While there are marks for presentation, the focus is on flavor. There are 24 judges.
The ingredients this year included two Scottish monkfish weighing approximately 5 kilograms (11 pounds) each, four crabs and 20 langoustines. For the meat dish, the chefs had two saddles (3 kilograms each) and one shoulder of Scottish lamb with kidneys. They also had rice and lamb tongue at their disposal.
The competing chefs included: Juan Pedro Demuru (Argentina); Russell Clarke (Australia); Gaetan Colin (Belgium); Ryan Stone (Canada); Shi Jing Shen (China); Kofoed Rasmus (Denmark); Matti Jamsen (Finland); Jerome Jaegle (France); Ludwig Heer (Germany); Nicolas Nicolas Palomo Ventura (Guatemala); Thrainn Freyr Vigfusson (Iceland); Guruh Nugraha (Indonesia), Alberto Zanoletti (Italy); Tatsuo Nakasu (Japan); See See Lay Na (Malaysia); Marco Poldervaart (Netherlands); Gunnar Hvarnes (Norway); Rafal Jelewski (Poland); R. Morilla Juan Andres (Spain); Tommy Myllymaki (Sweden); Franck Giovannini (Switzerland); and Alvaro Verderosa (Uruguay).
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)