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Daniel Boulud Pins Hopes on American Showing in Bocuse d’Or Cooking Competition

It’s “the hardest cooking competition in the world, ” said Gavin Kaysen, who placed sixth as the US contender in the 2007 Bocuse d’Or cooking competition that’s been dubbed the Culinary Olympics.

Paul Bocuse, Lea Linster, and Jerome Bocuse at US finals 2008. Photo: courtesy Bocuse d’Or USA.

Paul Bocuse, Lea Linster, and Jerome Bocuse at US finals 2008. Photo: courtesy Bocuse d’Or USA.

Twelve US teams, each composed of a chef and an assistant, were announced at a press conference at Restaurant Daniel in New York on Monday. The winner of a February  semi-final will face teams from 24 other countries at the Bocuse d’Or international competition to be held in Lyon, France in January 2011.

Despite the word stage on which competitors’ culinary talent will be displayed, the US teams were culled from a decidedly non-Olympic-sized applicant pool-only 17 young chefs applied.

It’s “more than we thought we would get,” said Daniel Boulud in announcing the US contenders.

The American teams will face off at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park the weekend of Feb. 5. and 6.  Prep time is on Friday. On Saturday, teams will cycle through a stadium kitchen designed to mimic the Lyon set-up. There, they’ll prepare lamb and salmon—the same two foods that will be cooked in Lyon. With the CIA event open to the public, organizers hope that the audience replicates the ferocious noise level that heats up the stadium in Lyon.

“The noise level is like an NFL game,” said Jerome Bocuse, son of the legendary chef, Paul Bocuse.

Why the paltry pool of applicants for such a prestigious cooking competition?

One reason may be the time and cost involved. Kaysen said he spent $250,00 to compete in 2007.

“You sacrifice everything,” he said.  “You had to stop everything you were doing.”

Boulud conceded that Kaysen might not have received the same level of support as other countries’ candidates. But this year, contenders won’t have to fend for themselves entirely.  The goal?  To be “as competitive as Norway,” Boulud said. Once a US team is chosen to go to Lyon, they’ll be trained intensively.  And the Bocuse d’Or Foundation will pick up the tab.

Hopes are running high for Team USA to wind up on the winner’s podium.

“We used to be the Jamaican bobsled team,” said Kaysen. “Now we’re not.”

Following are the dozen US semi-finalists:

1.                      Luke Bergman, The Modern, New York, NY

2.                      Danny Cerqueda, Carolina Country Club, Raleigh, NC

3.                      Michael Clauss, Daily Planet , Burlington, VT

4.                      Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill, Atlanta, GA

5.                      James Kent, Eleven Madison Park, New York, NY

6.                      Mark Liberman, Roxy’s Black Sheep, West Palm Beach, FL

7.                      Christopher Parsons, Catch, Winchester, MA

8.                      Jennifer Petrusky, Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago, IL

9.                      John Rellah, New York Yacht Club, New York, NY

10.                    Jeremie Tomczak, French Culinary Institute, New York, NY

11.                    Andrew Weiss, The Chef’s Workshop, Las Vegas, NV

12.                    Percy Whatley, The Ahwahanee, Yosemite, CA

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