Fascinated by the news that Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud are heading up Team USA in the Bocuse d’Or contest, we reached out to Boulud HQ today to find out some details on how the contest works.
• Neither Thomas Keller nor Daniel Boulud will judge the contest, but they will select teams to compete in the trials. Right now, Boulud is sending out applications to all Michelin-starred restaurants in America, as well as Relais & Chateau (another important guide) listees, recent Beard-award winners, and the top Zagat-rated restaurants in every major U.S. city. Eight teams will be selected by mid-July.
• The U.S. team trials will be at Orlando’s Epcot Center on September 26 and 27. The judges will be drawn from both Team USA’s advisory board and a four-person media panel composed of Martha Stewart, Dana Cowin of Food & Wine, Barbara Fairchild at Bon Appétit, and Ruth Reichl at Gourmet. Think those are big names? The chef committee is a Who’s Who of American gastronomy: Mario Batali, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Tom Colicchio, Eric Ripert, Jacques Pepin, André Soltner, Charlie Trotter, and so on. After these judges, the cheftestants will be intimidation-proof.
• If the judges aren’t tough enough, the actual judging criteria is bewilderingly intricate. This is no Taste-Presentation-Originality baking contest. According to the application, each dish has to be prepared both as a platter and in individual plates, and then is reviewed for, among other things, originality, creativity, texture, seasoning, “harmony and sophistication,” cleanliness, staff performance, efficiency, timing, and “complexity and detail.” Whoa!
• Applicants aren’t limited to those invited by Boulud. If you think you have the stuff to represent the U.S. in the so-called cooking Olympics, just fill out the application, send it in to Bocuse d’Or USA, and cross your fingers. You might be the one who brings the glory back home.