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July 23, 2008updated Feb 08, 2013

Bocuse d’Or Semi Finalists

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse and many of this country’s leading chefs are uniting their efforts in support of the Bocuse d’Or USA, the not-for-profit organization created to recruit, train, and support an American team for the world’s most prestigious culinary competition: the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest. The latter is an Olympic style event for professional chefs created over twenty years ago by Paul Bocuse and now held biennially in Lyon, France. Written applications for USA team candidates were due June 30, 2008.

Based on these written applications, eight semi-finalist teams (one chef plus one assistant per team) were selected to compete in an elimination contest to be held on September 26-27, 2008 at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Before a live audience, the eight teams will prepare elaborate fish and meat platters for a panel of prominent chef judges. They will be evaluated for their excellence in taste, presentation, creativity and technical precision. The competition will be open to the public.

Bocuse d’Or USA will provide the eight semi-finalist teams with travel and accommodations for the competition at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Semi-finalists will also receive training equipment and food supplies, a $2,000 stipend, and a one-year subscription for Avero Slingshot restaurant intelligence software. At the USA Bocuse d’Or Contest, the top three placing teams will be awarded cash prizes of $15,000 for the first place team, $10,000 for the second place team, and $5,000 for the third place team. The winning team will also be awarded a cruise vacation courtesy of Crystal Cruises.

Most importantly, the finalist team will receive a paid sabbatical to train for the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest. They will train from October 2008 through late January 2009 at the Bocuse d’Or USA Culinary Training Center in Yountville, California. This training facility, which includes private living quarters, is being created by Chef Thomas Keller adjacent to his renowned restaurant, The French Laundry. During the training period, the team will work intensively to perfect their dishes for presentation in Lyon.

They will be working with a dedicated chef coach, Roland Henin, a long time mentor to Thomas Keller, in a kitchen custom-designed expressly for the Bocuse d’Or. The USA team will then go on to compete at the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest in Lyon, France in late January 2009. During the training period, the chef and commis finalist team will be compensated by Bocuse d’Or USA at a rate equivalent to compensation from their current employers.

All Epcot Center guests are welcome to attend the September 26-27, 2008 Bocuse d’Or
USA competition. Information on where to purchase tickets will be available through in late Summer.

On Monday, July 14th Chef Daniel Boulud met with key members of the Bocuse d’Or USA Culinary Advisory Board to review competitor applications for the Bocuse d’Or USA competition.

The goal of the competition is to choose a finalist team that will go on to represent the United States at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or International Cuisine Contest held biennially in Lyon, France. The advisory board group, which included Tom Colicchio, Dan Barber, Daniel Humm, Jacques Pepin, André Soltner and Laurent Tourondel, quickly came to a consensus on the eight strongest team applications. The chef candidates selected span the entire country and come from restaurants as far reaching as Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Westerville, Ohio and California’s Napa Valley and Yosemite. The call for applications was sent out across the country to our finest chefs and restaurateurs including James Beard Foundation award winners, top Zagat Survey, Mobil Guide and Michelin Guide rated restaurants, Relais & Châteaux members and many more encouraging them to take part in our search. Bocuse d’Or USA application materials requested included professional resume; letters of recommendation; description, complete recipes and photos of proposed competition dishes. In conjunction with the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest, candidate age requirements were 25 and above for the chef, and 22 and under for the commis. All chef applicants were required to have a minimum of three years of professional experience in a restaurant.

The eight teams selected will travel to New York City for an orientation meeting to be held at the French Culinary Institute on Thursday, July 24th. At that time, they will receive an overview of the competition and its rules and regulations and will meet with former Bocuse d’Or USA competitors. They will also be given an opportunity to prepare a trial run of a dish for members of the Culinary Advisory Board and Coach Roland Henin so as to receive feedback for improvement.

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Thereafter, the teams will return to their home cities to train for the USA Bocuse d’Or Cuisine Competition to be held at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on September 26th and 27th, 2008. At the competition, each team will be given five hours to prepare elaborate presentations of cod and beef dishes for a panel of prominent chef judges. They will be evaluated for excellence in taste, presentation, technical skill and overall kitchen organization. The competition will be held in an arena setting before a live audience. All Epcot Center International Food and Wine Festival ticket holders are invited to view the live competition as spectators. The weekend will culminate in a Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony, where the first, second, and third place teams will receive prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

The winning team will go on to represent the United States at the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Competition in Lyon in January 2009. Prior to that, they will have the opportunity to train with Chef Coach Roland Henin at the Bocuse d’Or USA Culinary Training Center in Yountville, CA. The dedicated facility, created by Chef Thomas Keller, is adjacent to his restaurant, The French Laundry. The candidates will be invited to live in Yountville full time during the October 2008 – January 2009 training period. They will be housed at the training facility and given a stipend by Bocuse d’Or USA. The Bocuse d’Or USA team will compete among twenty-four national teams from around the globe at the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest in Lyon, France, on January 27th and 28th, 2009. The world competition is held in association with the SIRHA (the International Hotel Catering and Food Trade Exhibition), where over 2,000 exhibitors present international culinary trends and traditions. Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse publicly announced the selected semi-finalist teams today at a press conference at db Bistro Moderne in New York City. Chefs Boulud and Bocuse were joined by Gérard Collomb (Mayor of Lyon), Marie-Odile Fondeur (Director, SIRHA) Florent Suplisson (Competition Director, Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest), and Dieter Hannig (Vice President, Walt Disney World Food & Beverage).

Bocuse d’Or USA 2008 Semi-Finalist Teams:

Chef Timothy Hollingsworth, Sous Chef, French Laundry, Yountville, CA
Over seven years working for Thomas Keller at the French Laundry and Per Se
Commis: pending*

Chef Hung Huynh, Executive Chef, Solo, New York, NY
Top Chef Season 3 Winner, Formerly Sous Chef of Guy Savoy in Las Vegas
Commis: pending

Chef Rogers Powell, Instructor, French Culinary Institute, New York, NY
23 years of experience throughout NY and France, including La Côte Basque and
Commis: Kyle Fiasconaro, French Culinary Institute, Student

Chef John Rellah, Jr., Executive Chef, Hamilton Farm, Gladstone, NJ
Former Executive Chef of the Union Club in New York
Experience working at Gray Kunz, Lespinasse and Le Bernardin
Commis: pending

Chef Richard Rosendale, Chef/Owner, Rosendale’s, Westerville, OH
US Culinary Olympic Team Captain
Over 15 Gold Medals in national and international culinary competitions
Commis: Seth Warren, Rosendale’s, Cook

Chef Michael Rotondo, Chef de Cuisine, Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago, IL
New England Culinary Institute Alumnus, experience at Four Seasons Hotels
Commis: Jennifer Petrusky, Charlie Trotter’s, Sous Chef

Chef Kevin Sbraga, Culinary Director, Garces Restaurant Group
(Amada, Distrito, Mercat, and Tinto), Philadelphia, PA
Formerly Executive Chef of Le Mas Perrier of the Georges Perrier restaurant group
Commis: Aimee Patel, Amada, Line Cook

Chef Percy Whatley, Delaware North Parks, Executive Chef, Yosemite, CA
Oversees operations of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park
Works closely with Coach Roland Henin
Commis: Joshua Johnson, Delaware North Parks, Chef de Partie

* Chefs still seeking a commis to complete their team. The commis must be 22 years of age or younger in January of 2009, according to Bocuse d’Or World Competition guidelines.

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