Features US Chefs Go For Gold at the Bocuse d’Or 2008
Looking Toward Lyon: US Chefs Go For Gold at the Bocuse d’Or
January 2009

  Gold Medal Winners Timothy Hollingsworth (The French Laundry) and Commis Adina Guest (The French Laundry) with Chefs Paul Bocuse and Daniel Boulud - photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

  Competition Judge Jean-Georges Vongerichten Observes Winning Team Chef Timothy Hollingsworth (The French Laundry) and Adina Guest (The French Laundry) - photo by Will Blunt

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Eight chef-commis teams threw down in a two-day elimination competition for a chance at international glory, green, and the grand honor of representing the red, white and blue at what is often considered the "culinary Olympics" . . . the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest to be held in Lyon, France. 

The qualifying competition, the Bocuse d’Or USA, was held at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in Orlando, Florida, producing one clear winner: Chef Timothy Hollingsworth of The French Laundry (Yountville, CA).

“It’s an extreme honor just to have my name associated with the Bocuse d’Or,” Hollingsworth said. He and his commis Adina Guest earned the highest accumulated points based on presentation, creativity, and technical skill. All chefs presented a prodigious platter and individual plated portions of a fish and beef dish (see the winning dishes below). Chef Hollingsworth said of his commis, “her talent was inspiring.”

With a Little Help from Some Friends
In the 21 years since the biannual contest was created by legendary Chef Paul Bocuse, no American chef has placed higher than sixth. Chef Hartmut Handke, at 65 years old, placed sixth overall in 2003 and in 2007 Chef Gavin Kaysen of Café Boulud took 14th place. But that may change with Hollingsworth and the new level of support garnered from the industry and Bocuse d’Or USA board, namely, Chef Daniel Boulud (Chairman), Chef Thomas Keller (President), and Chef Jerome Bocuse (Vice-President).  

Boulud said his initial step in becoming chairman of the organization was to contact the best restaurant chefs in the nation and encourage their most talented young chefs to compete. The Bocuse d’Or USA, a not-for-profit organization, was formed specifically to recruit and train an American chef to compete internationally by attracting an adequate level of sponsorship and resources, lacking in previous years. On a plane ride returning from the French finals in early 2008, Chef Kaysen laid out for Chef Boulud exactly what a competitor would need in order to properly compete in the main event and so far it’s been provided, two-fold.

The advisory board’s hope is that with allotted time and focused training devoted toward the competition, Hollingsworth will rise above the other 24 countries’ chef-teams competing for the highly coveted gold statue.

What’s Next?

Competition Theater - courtesy of Walt Disney World

  Detail of Chef Timothy Hollingsworth's Winning Dish Elements: Port Wine Braised Oxtail en Feuille de Bric, Violette Figs, Scallion Salad and Truffle Coulis; Beef Cheek Enveloped in Swiss Chard, Yukon Gold and Black Truffle Mille-Feuille, Tokyo Turnips and Pickled Pearl Onion Petals
- Photo by Will Blunt

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Chef Hollingsworth will train intensively under the guidance of Master Chef Roland Henin in a specially-built facility beside Chef Keller’s The French Laundry in Yountville. (The kitchen was replicated by the same design team that created the Bocuse d’Or kitchen in Lyon.) Part of his winnings included a three-month paid sabbatical to train under these circumstances, something that previous winners were not given.  

The up-coming Bocuse d’Or is an Olympics-like event held in the backdrop of one of the world’s largest restaurant shows, the SIRHA trade exhibition, January 26th through the 29th. The meat of the competition is the two-day rigorous preparation of the specified dishes with these set ingredients: fish (Norwegian cod, king scallops, and wild prawns) and meat (Angus fillet steak, ox tail, ox cheeks, and beef ribs). Hollingsworth and his fellow competitors will face 24 international judges evaluating taste, presentation, and how accurately his dishes represent the US of A.

Making History
If Hollingsworth wins the title, he will take home the coveted trophy, 20,000 euros, and world-wide respect for American chefs. Or as Chef Gavin Kaysen explains, “I think if Timothy can touch the podium or take first place, for the first time it will give an extreme awareness of the competition in the United States[. . .] and give [. . .] young chefs that want to exceed beyond just being on a reality TV show an idea of doing something else. And I think that’s very important to the culture of cooking in America.”