Field Trip: Going for the Gold at Bocuse d'Or USA

Bocuse d'Or Even with the Winter Olympics on the horizon, it’s hard to imagine a display of patriotic pride—or foodie frenzy—greater than what we saw in the Bocuse d’Or USA bleachers at the Culinary Institute of America this weekend. Scores of boisterous culinary students and gastro fans gathered to support the 12 chefs competing for the chance to represent America at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon in January 2011. Each chef, assisted by a commis, faced the same challenge: prepare a salmon dish and a lamb dish for an intimidating all-star lineup of judges that included Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Grant Achatz. It made Iron Chef look like a school talent contest.

StudentsMacKenzie Arrington (CIA, Bachelor’s, 2009) and Vinny Dyevoich (CIA, Bachelors, 2010) came out with props to show their support for the U.S. competitors in the Bocuse d’Or USA competition this past Saturday at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. (Photo by Mitchell Davis)

Spearheaded by Jerome Bocuse and JBF Award winners Keller and Boulud, the Bocuse d’Or USA drew out some of the best chefs in the country for some competition and celebration. Additional judges included Paul Bartolotta, David Chang, Georges Perrier, Susan Spicer, André Soltner, and Laurent Tourondel, who also participated in demos, cookbook signings, and panels. Paul Bocuse himself was beamed in live from his Michelin three-star restaurant in Collognes-au-Mont-d’Or to address the contestants and their cheering fans. Several awards were given at the concluding gala walk-around reception and ceremony, which was hosted by the Beard Foundation’s own president, Susan Ungaro. CIA student Marcella Ogrodnik, who assisted Michael Clauss (The Daily Planet), won the award for Best Commis. Best Fish Dish went to Charlie Trotter’s Jennifer Petrusky and her commis, James Caputo, for their elegant and elaborate salmon preparation. Percy Whatley (The Ahwahnee) and his commis, Melissa Marshall (CIA), snagged Best Meat Dish with their lamb entry. But the ultimate prize went to Eleven Madison Park’s James Kent and his commis, Thomas Allan. His colleagues, among them Daniel Humm and the restaurant’s general manager, Will Guidara, cheered wildly when they heard that Kent would advance to Lyon. Humm, who earned a top-rating of four stars from the New York Times last year for his classically informed cooking, told us, “We trained a lot for this. I realized today that I like to win.” On top of repping the States in France next year, Kent will also cook at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala this May. After witnessing his victory this weekend, we can’t wait to taste what he has in store.

Susan Ungaro with winnersJBF president Susan Ungaro poses with James Kent (left) and his commis, Thomas Allan, of Eleven Madison Park. They were named the winners of Bocuse d’Or USA on Saturday, and will represent America at the 2011 Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France. (Photo by Keith Ferris/The Culinary Institute of America)

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