What an atmosphere there was at the Olympics in 2012. It seems an age ago now, but I’m sure plenty of people, like me, have such great memories of the infectious spirit of fun and competition that was just about everywhere. Then again, I suspect many have been tuned into the darts at the Alexandra Palace. Wow, what an event! Tickets were sold out almost immediately and the audience is so obviously there to celebrate, to enjoy and to support the participants. But I bet you didn’t know there’s a culinary event held every two years that, for many, rivals both of these in terms of support, competition and sheer theatre.
The Bocuse d’Or is based in Lyon, France, home of iconic chef Paul Bocuse. Indeed it was only his passion, energy and willpower that got it where it is today – the greatest cookery competition in the world.
In 1987, Bocuse called a lot of his French chef pals who were working abroad and asked them to support him by sending along a competitor from the country they were in. Every two years now 24 nations are represented in the final, which this year is on 27-28 January. It can be seen on live streaming if you can’t get out there.
Each team consists of a chef, plus a young assistant and a coach to offer guidance and encouragement. Over five and a half hours, each team has to deliver two dishes. This year, the first is a European white-fleshed brown trout, served plated with a specific vegetable accompaniment to be revealed on the day. This will be followed by guinea fowl with three appropriate garnishes. Both dishes are to be served in 14 portions, on a silver platter of specific dimensions. The effort put into the planning of these dishes and garnishes
is phenomenal – even the platter had a dozen or so design planning meetings with Heritage Collection, a Birmingham company that’s been involved with our team for years in trying to win the title for the UK.
Adam Bennett, and his commis Josh Allen, from The Cross at Kenilworth are the team on whose shoulders rest all our hopes. I was at a tasting last week, and both dishes were fantastic. But the trick is to have them perfect on the day, when they will be cooked in front of a fanatical audience of 3,000 or more.
The UK team will have around 60 catering students and 100 industry supporters, keen to see the UK advance in the gastronomic league. Two years ago we came fourth. Let’s hope we can beat that. For further inspiration, we’ve enlisted the help of Sheffield’s England Football Supporters Band. I can almost feel the goosebumps when they strike up Rule Britannia as the result is announced. Come on, Adam and Josh!