[The Bocuse d’Or USA selects its 2013 team at the end of January; here’s a look back at some highlights of our coverage of the 2010 team trials.]
Day 1 Musings from the Culinary Institute of America
I arrived in Hyde Park, New York, shortly before 10am today, to check out all the activities scheudled for the Bocuse d’Or USA “prep day” (more on that in a moment) at the Culinary Institute of America.
It was quite a scene: thoughout the late morning and early afternoon, a steady stream of chefs arrived to participate in the weekend’s panels and judging. It was a formidable group: Daniel Humm, Paul Liebrandt, Laurent Tourondel, David Chang, Grant Achatz, Traci des Jardin, Timothy Hollingsworth, Gavin Kaysen, Paul Bartolotta, Charlie Trotter, Susan Spicer, Alan Wong, Alain Sailhac, Andre Soltner, Georges Perrier, and – of course – the Bocuse d’Or USA triumverate of Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jerome Bocuse.
The sudents here are beyond excited, bouncing up and down the halls and saying things like, “This is the best weekend ever.” And who can blame them? Their heroes are walking among them, only too happy to sign their toques and chef coats, and to pose for pictures. A highlight of the afternoon was a panel on the topic of Crafting Your Culinary Career featuring many of the above-named chefs and moderated by Culinary Institute of America president, Tim Ryan. These kinds of panels can quickly devolve into a lot of hot air and platitudes, but today’s was chock full of bona fide wisdom. (My favorite line: On the topic of firing employees, Paul Liberandt said, “I’ve never fired anybody. They fire themselves.” So true.)
Although the setting was considerably more frigid than it was at the last Bocuse d’Or USA, held in September 2008 in Orlando, Florida, there was a sense of deja vu for those of us who were there last time. So many of the same players, the same emotions in the air, the coming competition and gala awards dinner Saturday night. I discussed this at length with a few returning candidates. Was it really a full year and a half ago that we all saw each other in Epcot? To us, it felt like only yesterday.
When I got back to the house where I’m staying and turned on the television, I was treated to a moment of cosmic pefection: the ultimate deja vu movie (and one of my personal faves), Groundhog Day, was playing on Bravo. As I type this, I’m watching Bill Murray better himself in pursuit of Andie MacDowell.
There will be plenty of deja vu to go around tomorrow as well: the competitors will be cooking for the second day in a row, because the organizers have made a change to the competition structure this year. Rather than cooking for 5 1/2 hours straight, as the American team will have to do in Lyon next January, they did about four hours of cooking today, with no audience in attendance, then stashed their food until tomorrow, when they will execute the final hours of their routine and present their platters.
I spoke to a number of people about the potential pros and cons of this adjustment today. (Best line: A returning candidate told me the dip in pressure compared to last time was so great that “I felt like I was cheating.”) But I’ll save up the observations until after Saturday plays out so I can put them in proper context.
I’ll be back Sunday or Monday with a wrap up of the entire weekend. Until then, if you’d like to keep up with the action, I’ll be tweeting all day Saturday squeezing in as much description as I can.
Signing off for now. Appropriately enough, Bravo has Groundhog Day on an endless loop. It just started playing from the beginning at midnight. And I have to get up early in the morning and drive to Hyde Park, same as I did today. It’s deja vu, all over again.