February 28, 2017
Witnessing History at the 30th Bocuse d’Or
from Chef Mary Locke
What an amazing experience to be a part of— I’m not sure where to even start. The atmosphere was what I would imagine a World Cup soccer game would be like. Raucous fans with painted faces. Vuvuzelas blaring. Trumpets and drums. Thunderous cheering for their country and their Chefs.
Flag waving countrymen and culinary enthusiasts from all over the world packed the grandstand. As part of the Minor’s Flavor Expedition, we were escorted to our front row box seats to watch the historic competition. The whole front stage was crawling with white toques of all nationalities. Chefs with ‘coach’ embroidered to the back of their coats. Official press photographers. And many lucky friends and family— right up until the magic started. Once the front floor was cleared, cameras followed each Chef and their team during the preparation process.
We watched anxiously as the ‘plate up’ countdown clock ticked commenced. An announcer called the action. Many past winners were recognized, including the only female Chef to ever hold the Golden Toque—Chef Lea Linster (winner, 1989). Then the judging panel was introduced. A body including 24 of the world’s most famous Chefs including past Bocuse d’Or champions, Michelin star winners, and master Chefs. Tick. Tick. Tick.
The drama unfolded as the first teams began to plate up the vegetal main dish. That’s right, it was the first time in the history of the competition that the main dish was vegetarian. Times are a-changing. After several tense moments— moments that seemed like an eternity— each kitchen produced 12 gorgeous plates for tasting and one plate to parade in front of the cameras and screaming fans. As quick as the plates were out, the teams set upon the task of executing the meat course portion of the competition. How anyone could concentrate or hear themselves think was remarkable!
On that day, team #5, comprising of Chef Mathew Peters and Chef Harrison Turone (USA), were like a well-oiled machine. They masterfully plated up their unbelievable vegetarian entrée, and whirled around to produce the show stopping meat plate just 30 minutes later. And what a dish it was! A play on Paul Bocuse’s renown chicken and crayfish was paraded past the screaming fans in the gallery. It was clear to me at that point that they were supreme!
The judges agreed. Five agonizing hours later Chef Peters and Chef Turone were handed the gold medal to a thunderous crowd.
Seeing Chef Peters and Chef Turone later that evening at the gala dinner was a special experience for us. They had crossed into territory no other Americans had previously; breaking through to become the first Team USA to be crowned world champions. History was made. America has been put on the culinary map. The rest of the world has been put on notice. And we were all witnesses.