Bocuse d'Or, Gala Dinner
I apologize for the lateness of this, the fourth and final post about our experience at the Bocuse d'Or, USA. I traveled last week for business, and this got later than it should have, but I wanted to write about the dinner and awards experience anyway. Then, Christey and I have to get back to business as usual at FotoCuisine and actually start cooking again! To recap: Foodbuzz was kind enough to send Christey and me to the Bocuse d’Or USA, in Epcot, Walt Disney World, as part of their Foodie Correspondent Program, to write about and photograph the competition. This is our fourth post about our experience. Our prior three posts were interviews with Chefs John Besh and Hung Huynh, and one post about the competition itself featuring four out of eight chefs competing for chef of Team USA.
Chef Jerome Bocuse, son of founder Paul Bocuse, and Executive Chef of Epcot's Chefs de France. Photo by Christey Krause.
The evening started outside the hall, waiting in the warmish, humid Orlando evening for the doors to open. The fact that we were all wearing suits and dresses increased the stickiness, but when the doors opened, the staff quickly and efficiently checked the reservations list and escorted us through the doors where a small squad of servers presented us with trays filled with ice cold glasses of water, flutes of champagne, frosty mojitos, and chilled manhattans. Now that's a welcome.
The spectator stands had been cleared away, but the modular kitchens were filled with serious talent. Two of Disney's best chefs were working with Bocuse d'Or judges on the hors d'oeuvres. There were eight items, divided into four themes: Fall Squash, Foie Gras, Wild Mushrooms, and Duck.
Chef Traci des Jardin, from Jaridniere, San Francisco, creates her squash dish. Photo by Christey Krause.
As the modular kitchens were open, it was possible to speak with the chefs as they worked, and they seemed to be having fun chatting with guests and asking how we were enjoying ourselves. I tried Traci des Jardin's Butternut Squash Panna Cotta, with Celery and Truffle Salad, and it was excellent. It was served on a spoon, however, which decorated my upper lip.
"How is it?" she asked.
"Delicious," I replied, "but it's tricky with a mustache."
She laughed and said, "I didn't think of that!"
Other favorites were the Roasted Muscovy Duck with Fennel and Blood Oranges, Smoked Bacon, and Minus 8 Vinaigrette, from Chef Scott Hunnel, Victoria and Albert's, Disney World; the Foie Gras Feuillete with Caramelized Endive and Mango, from Chef Alain Sailhac, French Culinary Institute; and the absolutely amazing Wild Mushroom Cappuccino -- looked like a cappuccino, tasted like the best mushroom soup you've ever had -- from Chef Georges Perrier, Le Bec Fin, Philadelphia.
Chefs working on their courses. Photos by Christey Krause
The cocktail reception could only be described as jovial. The chef contestants, their commis and families, the food suppliers, and the judges were all happy the competition part was over. The guests, especially the serious foodies, were in awe of the talent wandering around with cocktails in their hands. In one surreal experience, I wandered up to the Foie Gras kitchen just as Alain Sailhac left his booth. He walked directly up to me with a smile, shook my hand, asked me what I thought of the food and the evening, patted me on the shoulder and walked into the crowd.
One of the gala dinner tables, with toques hiding the first course. Photo by Christey Krause.
After cocktails, everyone was seated at long tables and presented with the menu and a toque. Underneath the toque was our "surprise" first course, created by Chef Patrick O'Connell, from Inn at Little Washington (Virginia). The course was titled "Tin of Sin" and consisted of a layer of petrossian sturgeon caviar covering (and hiding) a peekytoe crab salad. All the ingredients were American, including the farm-raised sturgeon eggs, which added a nice flair to the Team USA competition. It was an excellent way to start the seated meal, delicious and luxurious. The first course, served in a caviar tin with a mother of pearl spoon. Photo by Christey Krause.
The layer of petrossian caviar hid a crab salad underneath. Photo by Christey Krause.
The second course was Steamed Pierless Cod (all the fish in the competition was supplied by Pierless Fish Corp) with Hojiimenji Mushrooms and a Ginger Soy Hijiki Sauce, created by the well known Chicago Chef Charlie Trotter. The cod was light and tender and the sauce delivered a wonderful hint of Asia to the cold water fish. Chef Charlie Trotter's steamed cod dish. Photo by Christey Krause.
The meat course was a duo of beef from Brandt Beef, the meat supplier for the contestants. Chef Daniel Boulud created this meal -- a short rib braised for over seven hours in red wine, and a seared rib eye. The short rib was so tender, it was almost impossible to use a fork on it. The rib eye was rare and grilled on one side, and very beefy. Chef Daniel Boulud's Duo of Brandt Beef. Photo by Christey Krause.
The cheese course consisted of four kinds of cheese from Artisanal Premium Cheese from Manhattan -- a Comte, a Gorgonzola, a Grayson, and a Manchester. An assortment of artisanal cheeses. Photo by Christey Krause.
Each of the courses was paired with a wine. The caviar with a 2006 Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc (San Luis Obisbo), the cod with a 2006 Acacia Chardonnay (Carneros), the beef with a 2004 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry (Napa), and the cheese with a 2000 Dom Perignon Brut Champagne. Dom. Photo by Christey Krause.
The meal was as outstanding as promised. Seated at our table was a team from Rougie Foie Gras which supplied the foie for the competition. They were a fun trio of Frenchmen, and Christey and I had a blast speaking with them about France, and how we each felt about each piece of the meal.
With much ceremony, it was time to announce the winners. There were many categories, and each had a themed award.
The Best Commis was given to Adina Guest, French Laundry, commis to chef Timothy Hollingsworth. Her prize included three one-week stages at Rougie, at Regis Marcon, and with Paul Bocuse himself.
The Best Technique with Sous Vide went to chef Richard Rosendale, Rosendales, Columbus. He won a training program and sous vide certification, as well as a full immersion circulator and sous vide set.
The Most Promising Chef and Bocuse d'Or Candidate (a strength-of-potential award, and a nudge to enter again in the future) went to chef Michael Rotondo of Restaurant Charlie (Trotter), Las Vegas. Chef Rotondo won a $10,000 sabbatical to train at three restaurants in France, each of them Michelin starred.
The Best Fish Award went to chef Hung Huynh, Solo, New York. Chef Hung won a set of cookware from All Clad and Krups.
The Best Beef Award went to Kevin Sbraga, Garces Restaurant Group, Philadelphia. He won a three-day tour of the Brandt Beef Ranch in California with an honorary dinner.
The Bronze Award (and $5000) went to chef Michael Rotondo. The Silver Award (and $10,000) went to chef Richard Rosendale.
The winner was chef Tim Hollingsworth, of The French Laundry, Yountville. As the Team USA chef, he was awarded a three-month paid sabbatical to train with Master Chef Roland Henin at a specially prepared kitchen (also in Yountville, designed by chef Thomas Keller). He also won $15,000, a 12-day cruise which promises to be a leisurely way to eat around Europe, and a Jaeger-Le Coultre timepiece.
I'd like to say it wasn't a real surprise that chef Hollingsworth won, as his dishes looked beautiful and sublime, but many of the other chefs had wonderful looking platters, so it was pretty tense trying to figure out who was going to get the big prize...and, no doubt, a lot more stress in the near future.
The presentation of the awards. Photos by Christey Krause.
After congratulations, the guests moved back into the reception area, where a series of eight dessert stations were manned mostly by Disney chefs. The desserts ranged from a baked Alaska to petits fours and fruits. The lighting was mostly absent by this time, so unfortunately, there are no pictures of this massive dessert overload.
Christey and I keep finding ourselves talking about the possibility of Lyon in January, to catch the main event. This was a singular experience to witness, from the heat of the competition, the awe of the presentation, the wisdom of the judges, and the celebration of the awards.
Your correspondents, Christey Krause and Peter Krause.