Replaced with Jim Burke of James Restaurant in Philadelphia?
I was making a routine visit to the Bocuse d’Or USA website and noticed that while there are still a dozen candidates listed there, Kevin Gillespie, the recent Top Chef finalist who won his berth in the US finals on the show, has disappeared from the list while Jim Burke, executive chef/owner of James restaurant in Philadelphia–who was not on the original roster–has been added. I’ve confirmed with a rep for the Bocuse d’Or USA that GIllespie is out, but am awaiting further details.
To be honest — although I have no idea what the circumstances are yet — I don’t find this to be terribly shocking news as I always wondered how Gillespie, who basically had to earn his spot to avoid elimination in another contest, was going to find the time and motivation to properly compete at this event. If he dropped out to make room for a more Bocuse-passionate candidate, it might have actually been a noble gesture, as strange as that may sound.
Update (1:03 pm/Jan 22) – A rep for the Bocuse d’Or USA committee says that Gillespie withdrew due to a conflict with Bravo. (Obviously Bravo airs Top Chef, on which Gillespie won the spot, but the rep says it’s a matter of a time conflict. No further comment/information was offered.)
Update #2 (1:20pm) Gillespie’s spokesperson Melissa Libby just got in touch to give me the story from Gillespie. “You are one-hundred-percent correct in your suspicion,” she said of my theory for the withdrawl (above). “He didn’t have time to prepare, and didn’t want to let the country down. He felt like there was somebody else who deserved that spot. He’s a perfectionist and didn’t feel like he could do his best with everything going on.” Libby says that Gillespie wrote to the committee, who were gracious, and even offered to let him defer his place until 2013 [by which she meant the 2013 competition in Lyon, the US trials for which would be in 2012]. So will he take them up on the offer, or defer again? “Absolutely [he’ll compete in 2012]!” said Libby. “He wants to do this. It’s a huge goal of his. But he didn’t want to go in unprepared.”