Bocuse d’Or USA: The Rest of the Story

Possible Lyon Format Change, Mr. Potato Head’s Supporting Role, and Some Love for the Runners Up as Toqueland Wraps Up Its Bocuse d’Or USA Coverage

Richard Rosendale's gold-winning meat platter. (photo courtesy Bocuse d'Or USA)

January 30, 2012 — Toqueland dragged itself off the mat this morning after Sunday’s round-trip excursion to the CIA in Hyde Park, followed by a late night of optimistic summation, and trudged up to a press conference at the Sofitel in Midtown Manhattan.

A few urgent matters await us elsewhere, so with apologies for the bullets, here, in no particular order, are some leftovers from yesterday’s competition and news from this morning’s presser:

Toqueland Exclusives and Other Breaking Stuff:
  • You Heard it Here First: POSSIBLE SWITCH TO PARTIALLY SPONTANEOUS FORMAT IN LYON: Last week, Gavin Kaysen told us about a possible new format in Lyon, involving plates rather than platters for one “course.” Florent Suplisson, Executive Director of the international event in Lyon, hinted at the possible change in this morning’s press conference, opting not to reveal it there. But Toqueland can report the change that’s being pondered: The Bocuse d’Or is considering replacing one of the platters with plated dishes made from ingredients and techniques that are revealed over time: the proteins several months out, the ingredients to be used in the garnishes closer to the event, and the techniques that must be employed the day before the competition (these would possibly change from Day 1 to Day 2). None of this is decided yet; the organization will continue to discuss, and enlist some chefs to conduct some dry runs to see how it actually plays out, then will likely make its decision sometime over the next month. This would be a dramatic change for a competition in which knowing all the parameters in advance has always been a defining trait.
  • YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: Don’t Make Fun of My Spud, Bud! Bocuse d’Or USA 2012 Champ Richard Rosendale really did use a Mr. Potato Head! As he was plating his meat platter yesterday, an observer (not sure if it was the emcee or not) joked that Rosendale’s chicken looked like it was being presented in the shape of a Mr. Potato Head.  Well, guess what:  IT WAS! Here it is right from Rosendale himself: “Somebody was joking around that we used a Mr. Potato Head mold; we actually did. That was inspired by my son, Lawrence. He’s three and a half years old… it was pretty quick, I didn’t have time to make a mold and I playing with my son one Sunday and I looked over and I was, like, ‘That Mr. Potato Head is almost exactly like a chicken if you turn it upside down.’ So that’s what I used. I cut it in half and I cleaned it out with a dremel, and I just used it, it didn’t come in contact with the food. It was just to shape it. And then I cooked it all sous vide and then I flash fried it.”

Bocuse d’Or USA: Reasons to Believe

Why This Time Might be Different (no, really) for the Stars and Stripes in Lyon

Dream Team? Coach Gavin Kaysen (left) and 2013 Bocuse d’Or USA candidate Richard Rosendale (right)

January 29–The Bocuse d’Or USA created something of a monster for itself in 2008, when Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud, in partnership with Jerome Bocuse, took over the leadership of the organization. With their culinary savvy, fundraising ability, and deep bench of human resources, most people figured the mere involvement of the two most respected fine-dining moguls in the United States would be all it took to field a winning team and reverse two decades of US disappointment in the world’s preeminent culinary competition.

But most people are casual observers. They don’t know the first thing about the Bocuse d’Or; don’t realize just how exacting the standards are over there, in Lyon, France, where the global competition is held; don’t appreciate how hard the other teams train or how most of the judges’ palates tilt toward Europe. Even Keller and Boulud didn’t fully understand the dragon they were attempting to slay their first time out, not having ever attended the event themselves; they learned the hard way that it’s a big dragon, as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and that it breathes fire hot enough to melt the hopes and dreams of 21 (out of 24) teams every year. All of which created a delicate scenario when the organization’s pr team whipped up a frenzy of great expectations heading into the 2009 competiton.

And so, when The French Laundry’s Timothy Hollingsworth placed 6th out of 24 teams in Lyon that year, journalists and foodies recoiled, spewing snark and sarcasm. Then, in 2011, when Eleven Madison Park’s James Kent finished 10th, the wheels really came off–all the old complaints came flooding back: “Why can’t we win this thing?” “Why do we bother trying?” “What’s wrong?!?” The moment seemed to have passed the new guard by, as evidenced by the relatively scant media coverage leading up to this weekend’s finals. When I emailed a recent Bocuse d’Or USA finalist late Saturday night to ask if I’d see him at Hyde Park Sunday, he wrote back that he didn’t even know the event was this weekend.

But life is full of surprises, and today, Sunday, January 29, might just go down as the day that the Bocuse d’Or USA, under its current leadership, finally showed signs of reaching its full potential and having a shot of really, truly, finally–yes, I’m going to say it out loud–landing a candidate on the podium in Lyon…. 

Read More »

Bocuse d’Or USA 2012: Portrait of a Candidate

Images of Bocuse d’Or USA finalist Richard Rosendale from my book Knives at Dawn

Knives at Dawn, about the 2009 Bocuse d'Or USA team

Apologies for sneaking this in during the dwindling minutes of the week, but I just had a fun idea: With the Bocuse d’Or USA on tap for this Sunday, I thought it might be cool to have a look at one of the finalists, Richard Rosendale, who appeared in my book, Knives at Dawn, about the 2009 US squad. Rosendale didn’t win the team selection event, held at Orlando’s Epcot Center in 2008, that time out, but he came in second and was, by far, the candidate with the most competition experience. (I was also able to profile another of this year’s finalists, Danny Cerqueda, when he competed in the Bocuse d’Or USA in 2010; the organizers’ profiles of all four 2012 finalists here.  My recent interview with 2013 team coach Gavin Kaysen here.)

OK, here you go, some quick-cut images of Rosendale, via excerpts from Knives:

Here he is discussing the value of culinary competition:

Richard Rosendale, then chef-owner of Rosendales (also in Columbus) and a member of two International Culinary Olympics teams, sees even more value in the competition experience. “In my opinion, one year on the Olympic team is the equivalent of five years in the industry,” he said. “In doing the team you have obligations to push yourself and research more and do more and learn more than what you normally would . . . I’ve competed in Germany three times, Luxembourg twice, Basel, Switzerland, twice, and all over the United States. Seeing these other countries and the food they’re putting up really makes you open up your mind and see food a little differently. There’s no boundaries.”

Some background on Rosendale, and his relationship with 2009 Team USA coach Roland Henin:

Henin also encouraged Richard Rosendale, chef-owner of Rosendales restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, to apply. Rosendale, who has a large, flat nose and dark black hair combed back into a near-pompadour, had more culinary competition experience, exponentially more, than the rest of the field combined: a member of two United States Culinary Olympic teams, Rosendale had participated in two three-year apprenticeship programs in his young career, including one at The Greenbrier, the fabled hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. [Toqueland note: Since the book’s publication, Rosendale has returned to The Greenbrier as executive chef.] As part of his education there, he was expected to do competition-like exercises after work such as mystery baskets (cooking spontaneously from an unannounced selection of ingredients) or putting up buffet platters. These sessions lasted until about two in the morning, and included a critique by his supervisors, who offered no leniency. “The expectation was perfection all the time,” said Rosendale.

Though the next installment of the Olympics was set to start on October 19, just a few weeks after the event in Orlando, Rosendale was attracted to the opportunity presented by the new Bocuse d’Or USA. “I really want to see an American win,” he said. “We have way too many talented chefs not to have placed any higher than we have.”

Rosendale could have been channeling Kaysen when he said that the reason the United States hadn’t done better in the past wasn’t the candidates, but the resources. “People underestimate how much it takes, not just the commitment from the candidate but financial resources. When you’re trying to figure out what one of your garnishes is going to be and trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for that via a fundraiser, [it’s] a very difficult thing to do. Plus your day-to-day job.”

How Rosendale prepared for Orlando in 2008, as contrasted with the preparation of Top Chef champ Hung Hyunh, who was a fellow competitor that year:

Asked what he had done to prepare a week before the competition in Orlando, Hyunh—who was working in the kosher restaurant Solo in midtown Manhattan while its owners got a new project together for him—cackled gleefully. “I’m not!” he said. “This is a kosher kitchen . . . I’m competing against Thomas Keller’s guy, Charlie Trotter’s guy. They have all the resources in the world. Here I am, I have two vinegars—red wine and rice wine vinegar—and some vegetable stock.” He shrugged. “It’s very hard.”

“I know what I’m going to do,” he explained. “But I haven’t had time to perfect it. I’m just going to bring ingredients down there . . . and I’m gonna go . . . I’m gonna cook, with proper techniques, and I’m going to hope it tastes good. I don’t know if it’ll be the most perfected dish of my career— definitely not I would say—but given the circumstances I’m in now and given what I can do and get out of it, I think it’s going to be excellent.”

“I cook best under pressure,” he said, snapping his fingers. “And at the moment. Shit’s gonna go down. Things are gonna burn. Things are gonna break. I’m gonna go with the flow, and do what I do best. Cook!”… 

Read More »

Slice of Life: “For Auld Lang Syne”

Chinese New Year with Two American Chefs? A Burns Supper at … Marea? How It All Went Down…

It’s turning into one of those weeks: One late night after another, each morning bringing a painful reentry, a test of the restorative powers of a hot shower and pot of coffee, the eternal question of why I pony up for that monthly gym membership. But I’ve been powerless to stop it. Such is the lure of great food and drink, the reassuring presence of old friends, and the giddiness of meeting new ones.

Oddly, unpredictably, delightfully, the past two nights have both conjured thoughts of New Year’s Eve. Here’s why:

Remembering Chanterelle

What happens when chefs order: one “course” of dinner for three at Legend.

“Too much food!” cried our waitress at Legend, a Chinese restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea.

She didn’t know who she was dealing with: David Waltuck of the dear, departed Chanterelle and Harold Dieterle of Perilla and Kin Shop. And a culinary writer always happy to follow their lead.

Both toques are Chinese food enthusiasts, who first met last year, when the Waltucks (David and his wife Karen, former goddess of Chanterelle’s dining room) and I had dinner at Kin Shop.

The two chefs had long respected each other from afar. Both also love Asian food. So it was decided that the three of us would connect for a Chinese dinner. By the time we got around to scheduling it, the two had gotten to know each other a bit by participating in a few of the same charity events, and by David and Karen’s visits to Harold’s restaurants, both of which are in their West Village neighborhood.

We met Harold after service at Kin Shop, around 9:30pm Tuesday night. Given the hour, rather than a Chinatown spot, David picked Legend, which he first discovered by way of a New York Times review last year. We made the five-minute walk and settled into a banquette just past the bar. Despite the fact that this is Chinese New Year’s week, the hour was late and the restaurant was nearly empty, save for a few diners in the subterranean space below.

Sitting with these two guys, I didn’t even bother offering an opinion as to what we should order when our waitress arrived, pad in hand. Harold, in turn, deferred to David: “You go and I’ll fill in.”… 

Read More »

Third Time’s the Charm?: Current Bocuse d’Or USA Guard to Select Next Candidate

2013 Team Coach, and Former Bocuse d’Or USA Candidate, Gavin Kaysen, on What to Expect This Time Around

Gavin Kaysen has one more go at the gold, this time as coach (photo by Gary Payne, courtesy Cafe Boulud)

I haven’t focused very much on the ramp-up to the Bocuse d’Or USA, which takes place at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, this weekend. But having written a book about it two years back, and having just re-launched this website less than two weeks ago, it seemed the responsible thing to dust off that part of my brain that houses knowledge about platter presentations, scoring formulations, and Bocuse d’Or backstory, and pen a preview post. I’ll also be trekking up to the CIA on Sunday to watch the action and talk to a few key leaders and participants.

With all that in mind, I checked in with Café Boulud’s Gavin Kaysen Monday afternoon. Kaysen, who I should mention is a friend of mine, competed for the United States in 2005, was the catalyst for Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud getting involved (along with Jerome Bocuse) in the Bocuse d’Or USA in 2008, and played an unsung coaching role for the 2011 team. In a logical and to most observers’ minds, inevitable development, Kaysen will now be the official coach for the squad that competes for the Stars and Stripes in 2013.

It’s difficult to explain the logistics of the Bocuse d’Or USA without lapsing into an extended exhibition of inside baseball. Suffice it, then, to say that the format of this Sunday’s competition, in which the two-person 2013 American team who will compete in Lyon next January will be selected, will more closely resemble what goes on in France than did the 2010 team trials, in which the 5 1/2 hours of competitive cooking was divided over two days. That said, the notorious platter presentation that largely defines the Bocuse d’Or will only be mandated for one course; the other will be presented on plates. (According to Kaysen, the Bocuse d’Or committee in Lyon has signaled such a change will “probably” take place at the mothership competition in 2013, which would shock me. He says the committee will let the competing countries know in about a month.)… 

Read More »

The Toqueland Ten: Emily Luchetti (Farallon and Waterbar, San Francisco)

One of the nation’s most influential pastry chefs names her ten favorite ingredients, and why.

Emily Luchetti rose to prominence as the executive pastry chef of San Francisco’s late, great Stars restaurant and now oversees the dessert programs at Farallon and Waterbar. She’s also the author of six cookbooks, most recently The Fearless Baker.

Toqueland has a confession to make: We don’t know as much about the sweet science of pastry as we do about what goes on over on the hot line. With that in mind, we picked Luchetti’s brain at length recently. (She also laid a copy of The Fearless Baker on us and we highly recommend it for its supportive tone and powers of demystification.)  A longer interview will follow before too long, but for the time being, here’s a little snack to hold you over, our sophomore edition of Toqueland Ten:

Emily Luchetti (photo by Gene Kosoy; courtesy Waterbar)

1. Caramel. “Caramel. Caramel sauce. Caramel anything. (You have to make caramel, but once you make it, I consider it an ingredient.) It’s a flavor that goes with every other pastry ingredient, whether it’s chocolate, whether it’s nuts, whether it’s citrus. It can be a subtle flavor or can be really strong, dominant, driving flavor.” You don’t have to change the recipe for to achieve the different effects, says Luchetti: “It’s how you deploy it.”

2. Bittersweet chocolate. “If I had to pick one, I’d pick something around 64 percent [cocoa], because that’s really generic and you can use it in just about anything.”… 

Read More »

Hey, Hey, Paula: A Chef with Diabetes Reflects on Deen-Gate

Tom Valenti on Paula Deen, Diabetes, and the Economics of Healthful Eating

Tom Valenti (photo courtesy Ouest)

As readers of this website know, I’ve been far removed from everyday cares up in Yosemite National Park this week. So I barely got to focus on the Paula Deen announcement that she has Type 2 diabetes (lucky me). But before the weekend descends, I wanted to touch base with Tom Valenti, chef of Ouest restaurant in New York City, a man with Type 2 diabetes, and the coauthor (full disclosure: with me) of You Don’t Have to Be Diabetic to Love This Cookbook, a recipe tome for people with diabetes.

I asked Tom to share a few thoughts on this week’s news and on diabetes in general:

TOQUELAND: What was first thing you thought when you heard the news?

VALENTI: I wasn’t surprised because I think that the style of cooking speaks for itself. Diabetes is an epidemic. Heredity has a big role in it for sure, but if you look at how she cooks it’s not surprising.

TOQUELAND: How did you feel about the fact that she waited three years to share the news?

VALENTI: I think it’s a complicated question. On the one hand, health is a private matter. On the other, if moms are trying to emulate her in the kitchen, or if children are asking their moms (or dads) to cook for them based on her show, with no boundaries, then I think they were entitled to that information. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a fantasy.

TOQUELAND: To what extent do you think chefs or food personalities are responsible for what they cook, serve, or show to their public?

VALENTI: It’s all relative to your audience. I feel like my audience is very small and fine dining is the exception rather than the rule to eating and we should be paying attention to what we eat all the other times.

As for Paula Deen, I don’t think we should be judging her, notwithstanding the fact that she waited three years to tell the public. Should she have taken some responsibility over three years with what she was pushing? I don’t think so, actually.

If you’re going to go after Paula Deen, it’s a slippery slope. What about soft drink companies? What about the bottomless pasta bowl at a chain restaurant? What about anyplace or anybody who doesn’t serve utopian cuisine? I don’t want to go there…. 

Read More »

Depictions: The Odd Couple, Fine Dining Edition

A Fascinating Encounter Between Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc

I’ve had Marco Pierre White on the brain lately, mostly because I’ve been working with Paul Liebrandt on a book project. Coming of age when he did in London, Paul was heavily influenced by Marco, who towered over the dining scene there in the 1980s and 1990s. The first book that ever moved Paul was Marco’s classic and brilliantly titled White Heat, and for his second “proper” cooking job, Paul tried, and succeeded, in snagging a job at White’s celebrated The Restaurant Marco Pierre White at the Hyde Park Hotel (now a Mandarin Oriental).

Before opening that eponymous establishment, Marco made his name at Harvey’s, and while there, the BBC shot and aired a fascinating miniseries of sorts in which the chef cooked for, and then dined with, four kitchen masters for whom he had once worked: Pierre Koffman, Albert Roux, Nico Ladenis, and—most memorably to my mind—Raymond Blanc, the eternally childlike optimist who ran then, and still runs today, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.

Featured below is the third and final segment of the half-hour episode. The first two segments are here and here, and mostly concern Marco and his brigade preparing dinner; in other words, for two-thirds of the program, it’s a cooking show. But then, about 1 minute 15 seconds into part three, Raymond comes to lunch and you could cut the tension with any one of the knives just off camera in Marco’s kitchen. (The episodes featuring the other chefs are easily found on You Tube as well, and I recommend them all.)

Here’s the clip, with my time-stamped commentary below… if you can watch this just once, you have a lot more discipline than I do:

:38: Historical footnote: That plate is the Villeroy & Boch basket weave that become a darling of chefs in both London and the US around this time. Prior to its popularity, you’d have had a hard time finding oversize plates, so common in restaurants today, anywhere in the United States, not even at a restaurant show.

1:23: Sign of things to come: Raymond, full of enthusiasm, lifts his glass for a toast. Marco corrects him: “You’re supposed to do this at the end, Chef.” And away we go…. 

Read More »

Chefs’ Holidays: You Are There

(Sort-Of) Live Blogging Two Days at the Ahwahnee with Chefs Rick Moonen, Jesse Cool, and Jimmy Bradley

Having written a single, summary piece of my first session at the Ahwahnee this week, I’ve decided to try something different for the next two days: As the chefs (Jimmy Bradley, Jesse Cool, and Rick Moonen) conduct demos and Moonen prepares a five-course dinner for Thursday night, I’ll periodically update this post with glimpses of the cooking demos, socializing, and cooking as it all unspools.

(NOTE: I’m not sure which version of this will be sent out to email subscribers by the automated system, so if you’re reading this post via a subscription, you might want to visit the actual site page for the latest update.)

Here goes:

Wednesday Morning, 10am: Stalking the Green Papaya

We actually begin our adventure with a little ingredient drama from Tuesday, when Rick, who showed up a few days early with his girlfriend Roni Fields and his chef de cuisine from rm seafood in Las Vegas, Chris Starkus, realized that there wasn’t enough green papaya in the house for both his cooking demo today and the gala dinner tomorrow. (Hey, these things happen: happy diners who were moaning over Chef Peter Chastain’s dinner last night would be shocked to learn that the perfectly poached and chilled lobsters we were chowing down on at 7pm hadn’t been delivered to the kitchen until 4:30pm. These kinds of things happen to chefs, and are recovered from, every day.)

Rick Moonen in the Ahwahnee Kitchen, Tuesday afternoon.

The Ahwahnee, located as it is in the middle of a national park, couldn’t procure the necessary papaya on such short notice, so the other toques did what any respectable chefs would do in the same situation: they broke out their cell phones and bailed Rick out.

The final solution: Emily Luchetti, who was part of the Chefs’ Holidays session that wrapped up last night, had her San Francisco restaurant Waterbar order a crate of the precious cargo, which was set to arrive by 9am today in the city. At 10am, Jimmy Bradley, of The Red Cat, is to swing by the restaurant on his way out of town, put the crate in the trunk, and haul it up here for arrival this afternoon. (Can you hear the Mission impossible theme as you read this? No? OK, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic.)… 

Read More »

Hotel California

Notes from Chefs’ Holidays at the Ahwahnee, Part 1

Sean Baker introduces himself to Chefs' Holidays attendees. (photo by Jessica Abdo, courtesy Ahwahnee Hotel)

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, JANUARY 17, 2011—It’s not right to generalize but I’ve long felt that it’s a victim-less crime when you do so in a positive way, like when you say that you love Italians (which I do) or Australians (guilty, again) or that you never met a meanie from Seattle (seriously, the CEOs in that city will give you a lift to the airport).

I know too much about the cooking trade to believe for a second that all Northern California chefs are nice guys and gals, but the three I’ve been with since Sunday night—Sean Baker, Peter Chastain, and Emily Luchetti—tempt me toward that conclusion nonetheless. The four of us just wrapped up Session 3 of Chefs’ Holidays at the Ahwahnee, a magnificent hotel in Yosemite National Park, where the chefs conducted cooking demos and I acted as moderator and host.

Having arrived in San Francisco on Saturday, the “work week” (yeah, right) began for me on Sunday when Luchetti, executive pastry chef of Farallon and Waterbar, picked me up at the Huntington Hotel, perched high atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Emily and I had never met before, but she was kind enough to give me a lift from the city up to Yosemite.

The four-hour drive passed remarkably quickly. Not only was it a beautiful, sunny, unseasonably warm day, but we had the benefit of being total strangers. We discussed everything from the restaurant scene in our respective cities to writing books (Emily has penned six) to the Beard Foundation (Emily recently served on the board; I was married at the Beard House in Manhattan) to the French Culinary Institute (she’s currently a dean; I studied there).

Emily was also kind enough to consent to a lengthy interview in which we discussed everything from the pastry arts in general to her individual career path; she walked me through the formative days of Stars restaurant, one of the most important American dining establishments of the past 40 years, the place where Jeremiah Tower reached full flight and became one of our first celebrity chefs. Emily was part of the opening team of Stars as a line cook, but tired of the savory slog, and with Tower’s support, began transitioning to pastry, eventually becoming executive pastry chef.  Wasn’t it nice of Jeremiah to encourage such a drastic change?… 

Read More »