“More people want to be on Top Chef than the Bocuse team,” Daniel Boulud said somewhat ruefully yesterday afternoon while announcing the dozen semifinalists for the U.S. Bocuse d'Or team. “We received seventeen applications, which was more than we thought we could get,” he added. The paltry number of applicants might have something to do with the fact that chefs must raise their own dough until they reach the final round of competition. (Gavin Kaysen represented the U.S. in 2007, but for a price: “I had to spend $250,000.”)
The semifinals are a two-day affair held at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park on February 5 and 6. “Chefs will have three hours to prep on Friday and three hours on Saturday,” explained Jerome Bocuse, son of the contest's founder and legendary chef, Paul. The semifinals will replicate the contest's setting in Lyon, France, from the proteins (salmon and lamb) to a noisy auditorium filled with screaming chefs.
Boulud, who chairs the Bocuse d'Or Foundation, desperately wants an American chef to place this year. “Last year, we were very stressed for time and Timothy [Hollingsworth, who placed sixth] had very little time. We are ahead of this game this year.” Kaysen was equally optimistic about our chances, predicting that Team USA will “touch the podium” in January 2011. “We used to be the Jamaican Bobsled team,“ he says. “Now, we’re not.”