What It's Like to Win the World's Biggest Culinary Competition
In case you haven't already heard, Team USA took home the gold at this year's Bocuse d'Or for the first time. Touted as the Olympics of the food world, the event is a biennial culinary competition where each participating country must prepare and present an extravagantly composed tray inspired by a theme. Twist: The theme is shared only two months before the competition begins.
We recently stopped into Per Se—Thomas Keller is the president of the team and a jury member for the competition—to chat with Mathew Peters, Team USA's head chef, and his commis, Harrison Turone, about their experience.
"We were shooting for the gold from the beginning," Peters told us, describing the team's vigorous preparation leading up to the competition. "Anywhere from 70 to 80 times, we're probably tasting the same garnishes and dishes over and over again, trying to perfect them, trying to get the seasoning and textures correct."
A classic lyonnaise dish, chicken and crayfish, was this year's theme. Team USA's platter was made up of poulet de Bresse served with sauce Américaine, chicken liver mousse and Maine lobster tail with Meyer lemon mousse, then garnished with slow-poached sweet carrots, sugar snap pea crisps and Rose Finn potatoes.
Peters and Turone chatted with us as they were working on a collaboration they did with the Kellogg's NYC cereal bar to celebrate Team USA's win and the ment'or BKB foundation. Line cooks at Per Se greeted Peters with congratulations as they took pictures with the hefty gold trophy like they were accepting an Oscar (don't worry, we snuck in a few selfies with it, too).
Meanwhile, with tweezers in hand, Peters plated a whimsical play on the classic Per Se dish of truffled custard served in an eggshell, this one infused with Corn Flakes® and garnished with a chive chip made with Special K®. As soon as that was done, he followed up with a delicately assembled hearts of palm salad made with Apple Jacks®.
While we have to wait two more years to see if Team USA can defend their title, witnessing firsthand the incredible attention to detail and skill required to win was worth its weight in gold.
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