Michael Clauss Has Followed His Own Star… Right to Hyde Park
[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.]
[With this article, Toqueland has completed its goal of profiling all 12 finalists who will be competing in the Bocuse d’Or USA at Hyde Park this weekend. Best of luck to all the candidates!]
One of the more intriguing aspects of the Bocuse d’Or is the tension between what a chef candidate wants to cook and what he or she has to cook. Most seasoned observers of the competition will tell you that if you don’t cook from the heart, the final dishes will be diminished; the insincerity will register in the eyes and on the taste buds of the judges. This creates a unique tension for non-European candidates because food etched in a classic French/European style tends to win at the Bocuse d’Or.
After interviewing Michael Clauss, chef of The Daily Planet in Burlington, Vermont, recently, I was struck by how naturally he seemed to fit into this matrix–the chef has a deep background in French cuisine, and has followed his instintcts (and as you are about to learn, his heart) to his current places or residency and employment. I’ll be interested to see how that all adds up on his platters this Saturday.
Clauss was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, but his family moved to Vermont when he was three. They lived on a converted dairy farm where they engaged in all kinds of enviable culinary activities, such as cooking freshly killed deer over a woodburning stove or making fresh pasta (his mother was the daughter of Sicilians) every Sunday.
Clauss himself began cooking in high school, then attended the Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 1995. He externed at the Equinox Hotel in Manchester, Vermont, which led to working in Chantecleer, a small restaurant in East Dorset, Vermont, owned by a Swiss chef of French descent, where he got a crash course in classic, often rustic, cooking: chateaubriand, frog’s legs, Dover sole, and so on. There were only about eight entrees on the menu, supplemented by six or seven specials a day, which Clauss says was satisfying from a creative standpoint. He ended up staying there for 9 years.
From there, Clauss moved around a bit: a stint as sous chef and banquet chef at Tribeca Grill; two years as an instructor at the New England Culinary Institute in Northern Vermont; and then an extended stay in post-Katrina New Orleans, cooking for volunteers.