Food Drink

Bocuse d’Or :: A gathering of international A-list chefs

by Richard Frisbie
EDGE Contributor
Friday Feb 19, 2010
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Team Chef James Kent
Team Chef James Kent  (Source:Richard Frisbie)

Bocuse d’Or is an international foundation of culinary professionals dedicated to inspiring culinary excellence. Based in Lyon, France, the Foundation’s Board of Directors includes Chef Daniel Boulud, Chef Thomas Keller and Chef Jerome Bocuse, son of Chef Paul Bocuse, who founded Bocuse d’Or 25 years ago.

The Bocuse d’Or holds regional competitions throughout the world to recognize the superior achievements of the culinary masters in each area. These regional face-offs culminate in a biennial international competition of the 24 regional winners, held at the organization’s headquarters in France. Bocuse d’Or USA was created in 2009 to preserve the traditions and quality of classic cuisine in America; the organization now hosts the USA region’s culinary competition.

Recently, the Bocuse d’Or USA competition finals were held at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. During the course of the day, twelve two-member teams presented two protein dishes to a panel of chef judges for evaluation of overall promise as a Bocuse d’Or team. Based on competition performance, the top candidate and his or her commis were selected to go on to Lyon in 2011 as the US representative.


Time Waits For No Man

Iron Chef, the television show, was modeled after the Bocuse d’Or competition, although on a smaller scale. The Bocuse d’Or competition consists of 12 teams who rotate through the Manitowoc competition kitchens in waves; each team has is allowed five hours and 35 minutes to present two dishes to the judges: one based on Scottish Salmon, and one using American Lamb. (Sorry veggies...) To accommodate the teams, four kitchens were set up in the CIA gymnasium, which was converted for the occasion.

Beginning at 6AM - and lasting for 8 hours - these celebrity chef teams battled the clock to produce some stellar dishes... and some flops.

The most notable disaster came early in the day, when the first competitor - Chef Jim Burke - couldn’t finish his entry before his allotted time was up; a devastating event for someone who worked so hard to compete. Just five minutes shy of completion, he didn’t get to finish his presentation, but failed because he wasn’t ready on time.

The judging passed him by with the announcement that the other contestants would not be penalized for his tardiness, and that his food would still be displayed when it was ready. Luckily, nothing else came close to matching that devastating beginning.

Chef John Rellah, of the NY Yacht Club, had a slight advantage, at least when it came to expectations: this was his second year competing. His whole family was in the audience, some of whom were banging on pots and pans - using ladles - to cheer him on. He gave a good account of himself, but in the end didn’t make it through in a competition many top chefs are never even qualified to enter. It may have hurt to fail publicly, but it certainly was an honor to be selected to compete at all, and then to be chosen twice! Now that’s a man with fortitude.

I wonder if the third time will be the charm for him?

Next :: Who’s Who


Who’s Who - Judges, Chefs & Commis

Each team created two elaborate culinary presentations before a live audience and a prestigious panel of chef judges chosen from The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation’s esteemed Culinary Council. Judges for the competition included The Foundation’s Board of Directors - Chef Daniel Boulud, Chef Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse - as well as Chefs Grant Achatz, Paul Bartolotta, Timothy Hollingsworth, Traci Des Jardins, Paul Liebrandt, Walter Manzke, Daniel Patterson, Georges Perrier, Alain Sailhac, André Soltner, Susan Spicer, Laurent Tourondel, Alan Wong and Eric Ziebold.

The competing chefs included:

  • Luke Bergman, The Modern, Sous Chef (New York, NY)
    Commis: Joseph Piccione, The Culinary Institute of America, Student

  • Jim Burke, James, Executive Chef/Owner (Philadelphia, PA)
    Commis: Simon Solis-Cohen, The Culinary Institute of America, Student

  • Danny Cerqueda, Carolina Country Club, Executive Sous Chef (Raleigh, NC)
    Commis: Wayne Goode, Caroline Country Club, Prep Cook

  • Michael Clauss, The Daily Planet, Executive Chef (Burlington, VT)
    Commis: Marcella Ogrodnik, The Culinary Institute of America, Student

  • James Kent, Eleven Madison Park, Sous Chef (New York, NY)
    Commis: Tom Allan, Eleven Madison Park, Sous Chef

  • Mark Liberman, Consulting Chef (San Francisco, CA)
    Commis: Leland Cummings, The Culinary Institute of America, Student

  • Christopher Parsons, Catch, Executive Chef/Owner (Winchester, MA)
    Commis: Nathaniel French, Catch, Garde Manger

  • Jennifer Petrusky, Charlie Trotter’s, Sous Chef (Chicago, IL)
    Commis: James Caputo, Charlie Trotter’s, Cook

  • John Rellah, NY Yacht Club, Executive Chef (New York, NY)
    Commis: Alexander Flynn, The French Culinary Institute, Student

  • Jeremie Tomczak, French Culinary Institute, Executive Chef - Event Operations (New York, NY)
    Commis: Cameron Slaugh, Park Avenue Seasonal, Sous Chef

  • Andrew Weiss, The Lakes Club at Lake Las Vegas, Executive Chef (Las Vegas, NV)
    Commis: Fernando Salazar, The Lobby Bar and Café at Encore, Cook

  • Percy Whatley, The Ahwahnee, Executive Chef (Yosemite, CA)
    Commis: Melissa Marshall, The Culinary Institute of America, Extern

    Chef James Kent Wins

    And the winner was... Chef James Kent of Eleven Madison Park (NY).

    Chef Kent’s Scottish "Label Rouge" Salmon Pavé with Leeks, Osetra Cavier and Sauce Fumet Blanc was elegantly garnished with the following: Roulade with Alaskan King Crab, Relish of Cucumber and Meyer Lemon; Chilled Mousse with Tartare and Roe; Pickled Heirloom Beets with Crème Fraiche, Dill and Black Pepper. The fish was provided by Scottish Quality Salmon.

    For his lamb platter, Chef Kent presented Elysian Fields Farm Spring Lamb: Bacon Wrapped Saddle with Piquillo Peppers and Provençale Herbes; Vol-Au-Vent of Braised Gigot with Sweetbreads and Preserved Lemon; Zucchini with Lynnhaven Chèvre Frais and Mint; Tart of Tomato Confit with Basil, Niçoise Olives and Fromage Blanc. The lamb was provided by The American Lamb Board.

    Chef Daniel Boulud, The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation Chairman, praised Chef Kent saying he "shows a great deal of courage, passion and command of his craft, and we look forward to training him throughout the coming year in preparation for Lyon in 2011," referring to the fact that all the judges will be mentoring him for the immediate future, helping to prepare him for the grueling competition in Lyons next January.

    Much was made of the fact that between now and the finals in Lyon next January there are 11 months to prepare; competitors only had 3 months to prepare for the last finals, which wasn’t enough time to groom a winner.

    Speaking of winners, the first prize also comes with a monetary award. Chef Kent received a $5,000 cash prize.

    In second place, Chef Luke Bergman, Sous Chef at The Modern in New York City, was awarded a trophy and a $4,000 cash prize. In third place, Chef Christopher Parsons, Executive Chef/Owner of Catch in Winchester, MA, was awarded a trophy and a $3,000 cash prize. The following awards were also presented at the Awards Dinner:

  • BEST COMMIS presented by Rougié Foie Gras: Marcella Ogrodnik (Student, The Culinary Institute of America)

  • BEST FISH presented by All-Clad Metalcrafters: Jennifer Petrusky (Sous Chef, Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago, IL)

  • BEST MEAT presented by All-Clad Metalcrafters: Percy Whatley (Executive Chef, The Ahwahnee, Yosemite, CA)

    Next :: Not all seasoned pros

    Culinary Student as Spectator

    Between watching the action on the large screens dotting the walls of the VIP lounge and eating the constantly replenished supply of scrumptious food, (3 kinds of foie gras, lamb ragu served on polenta, smoked salmon, lentil and tomato salads, a whole table of cheese bookended by a beautifully shaped selection of bread, and various flavors of crème bruleè) I talked to some of the other spectators. A young culinary student, Taylor Miles, clutched his battered bible - Larousse Gastronomique - and a new copy of Chef Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook.

    "I’m waiting for a chance to get these signed, but I’m nervous about asking them." He nodded towards the judges.

    I assured him they’d be thrilled to be asked, so not to miss the opportunity. A woman next to me echoed the sentiment before turning back to the judging; for a moment we felt like a family. The whole gymnasium full of spectators was like that.

    I left the young chef looking not so much reassured as resolute; later he positively radiated happiness as he showed me his signed copies. He’ll go far.


    Daylong Activities

    The day was full of other events to attend as well. The morning offered symposiums on food: foie gras and lamb were my favorites. There was also a Chef’s Roundtable on Sustaining Excellence to check out in the afternoon, with book signings filling all the available spare time, until the campus tours began. Even if I had a clone I couldn’t have covered everything; as it was, the closed circuit competition was almost too exciting to leave, but the lure of the live crowds kept drawing me away from the food to stand before the judges. (I never knew that watching a live competition of this stature could be so exciting!)

    This is nothing compared to the spectacle that is Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, with 50 to 300 people attending each of the 24 chefs, and thousands of spectators. Chef Kent has 11 months to prepare, which is good because it will likely take me that long to figure out how I’m going to get to Lyon and watch him compete again.

    For more information:

    Bocuse d’Or USA

    Richard Frisbie is a bookseller and publisher in New York State whose food & wine travel articles appear in LGBTQ and regional periodicals, as-well-as at and online. He accepts free copies of books for review, restaurant meals to critique, bottles of wine and liquor for tastings, and all-expense-paid trips in exchange for articles about the destinations. He is paid for these articles.You can email him at:


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