With the Bocuse d'Or semifinals completed and French Laundry chef Timothy Hollingsworth tapped to go to Lyon, Thomas Keller had time for a chat yesterday. The renowned bicoastal chef is also the president of the USA Committee for the Bocuse d'Or and has even donated his father's old house in Yountville, California, to be the training center. We talked to Keller about Hollingsworth, his training regimen, and the importance of a victory at the Bocuse d'Or for American chefs. Later today, we'll publish part two of our talk with Keller.
Timothy Hollingsworth, who will represent the U.S. at the Bocuse dOr, works for you at French Laundry.
Timmy has been with us seven years. Maybe a little longer. He came in as a commis, and has worked his way up through the different stations. He became a sous-chef about two years ago, and has been working in that position overseeing the restaurant, helping develop the menus, ordering. He continues to prove himself.
Why have you taken such a personal interest in the competition this year?
Paul Bocuse was really one of the main reasons. He reached out to me and wanted me to be a part of it this year. When a chef goes Do this you respond Oui, oui, Chef, especially [for] someone like Chef Bocuse. The Bocuse dOr is over twenty years old now, it never really got the attention of the media. And so, with Daniel [Boulud] and Thomas Keller, were talking now because of that. Gavin Kaysen, whos a wonderful chef and who competed last time, didnt get the recognition and attention because he didnt have the awareness of the media.
Theres a lot of media attention in general for chefs these days, with Top Chef and the Food Network and so forth. Is the Bocuse dOr something you hope will encourage others to enter the business?
I dont think its about having more people enter the business. I think its just about bringing a a stronger foundation for this team, for their chance to win. We really want to have a stronger presence in Bocuse DOr, to be taken seriously by the world.
Hollingsworth and his commis will train in Yountville. Whats the training center like? Im envisioning a monastic cell with a giant kitchen.
It used to be my fathers house. And he passed away last April, and I decided to do a research and development kitchen there for The French Laundry. And then I got involved in Bocuse DOr and it just seemed to be the natural evolution to actually build a kitchen there for Bocuse DOr. So theyll have the same equipment, the same footprint [as] the one theyre actually working in when they get to Lyon.
What does the training consist of?
Its a lot of repetition of technique, perfecting their technique, perfecting their timing, because they only have five hours to prepare this food from beginning to end.
Will you have any role in the training?
Not really. Its easy to help them prep things, or help them perfect a technique, or give them advice or direction, but really it has to be something that resonates with them personally, so they can feel like it is their dish and in a way that represents them and not necessarily the restaurant they come from.