ON BOCUSE D’OR IN AMERICA: SETTING LASTING EXPECTATIONS
Tom Allan, Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, and James Kent at the Bocuse d’Or Europe selections in Geneva, June 2010.
I am very proud to be French, and especially proud to be from Lyon—where in 1987, Paul Bocuse started the Bocuse d’Or, the international culinary competition among the world’s greatest chefs. I have such enormous respect for Paul. Through the Bocuse d’Or, he has succeeded in taking my native city, one that is near and dear to the culinary hearts of all French people, and sharing it with the world. The funny thing is, up until three years ago, no one in the United States paid much attention to the competition. That’s when Paul asked me to be the President d’Honneur for the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon. It means that I have a seat next to him in the organization—my job is to represent the body of judges that choose a winner from among 24 countries.
I had another reason for accepting a key role in the Bocuse d’Or. When Gavin Kaysen—a Bocuse d’Or candidate four years ago who was then a chef at El Bizcocho in San Diego— talked with me about his experience, I was struck by how little support was available to him. He showed me his preparations
and posters, demonstrated his dishes, and explained his goals. He was completely on his own, with no financial support or advisory group to guide him—and all the while, he continued to maintain his job as executive chef. Shortly after becoming President d’Honneur, I decided to create an advisory board with Thomas Keller and Paul’s son, Jerome Bocuse—and that was the beginning of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation. From that point on, I knew we could begin to make a statement about American chefs and their cuisine on the world stage.
The first thing we did was make the Bocuse d’Or USA a nonprofit organization to establish a lasting structure, a system that would nurture and supervise young talent for a long time to come. Then, to create awareness of the Bocuse D’Or here and build that support system, we created the Culinary Council of chefs nationwide. If you are looking for a great young American chef, where are you most likely to find him or her? The answer is obvious: from the top chefs across the country who continually bring these young chefs through their kitchens. Top chefs are the eyes and ears on the ground. Another goal of the organization is to develop a sense of national pride on the world’s culinary stage. I love the image of sitting in the bleachers in Lyon and seeing Team USA step up to the winner’s podium. How spectacular!
One of our largest and most important efforts as an organization is our scholarship program. We take enormous pride in developing talent, and we’ve launched a made-tomeasure program to do just that. Our candidates for the Bocuse d‘Or have the opportunity to learn from France’s top chefs by working in their restaurants, compliments of our scholarship program. These awards allow us to provide access to experiences that emerging chefs might never have on their own.
My goal is to build a Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation that becomes increasingly more organized and competitive—to show the world that in America, there are supremely talented chefs preparing remarkable cuisine. Through our efforts, we will no doubt get closer and closer to the gold!