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
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.”
- We’ll Get Back to You: Proteins for Lyon Not Being Announced Until “Early Summer”: At today’s press conference, Bocuse d’Or USA Chairman Daniel Boulud asked Supplison when the organization would make the proteins (meats and fish) for the 2013 competition known. Supplison replied that, because not all teams have yet been selected, the organization will likely not make the proteins known until early summer to keep the playing field level.This is later than in past years, and takes a bit of the wind out of Coach Gavin Kaysen’s plans for a turbo-charged start up, but there’s plenty of more general ideation he and his team can begin, and of course, newly minted USA candidate Richard Rosendale needs to get going on creating a training kitchen at The Greenbrier.
- Bocuse d’CIA?: This is un-comfirmed, but Toqueland heard from a reliable source on Sunday that the CIA is renaming its Escoffier Room the Bocuse Room. Given Bocuse’s intense and public admiration of the school, and the Institute’s deep respect for the toque, whom it named Chef of the Century last year, it’s not hard to figure why this might be in the offing.
Other Notes and Postscripts:
- Best Bad Ass: Jeffrey Lizotte, chef of ON20 in Hartford, CT, took silver yesterday, despite the fact this his commis, Kevin Curley, sustained a finger wound so serious that organizers almost sent him off to the hospital. Curley cooked most of the day with a corn-dog-sized, duct-taped wrap in place on the damaged digit, and stayed right through to the awards, where he and Lizotte won silver and Curley was awarded Best Commis. I was sorry not to get to spend more time with these guys–I really admire them, and the way they hung in there. I often say that I was first drawn to the Bocuse d’Or by its mix of cooking and sports and Curley’s saga exemplified this for me.
- Maybe that’s Why My Twitter Connection was Fritzy on Sunday: At today’s presser, Bocuse d’Or president Thomas Keller mentioned that Bocuse d’Or was one of the top topics on Twitter during Sunday’s finals. Keller also mentioned that at his and Daniel’s restaurants, they’ve added an extra gratuity line on all checks where patrons can donate to the Bocuse d’Or. Makes sense to us; every little bit helps.
- You Can’t Judge a Book…: William Bradley of Le Cordon Bleu, who took the bronze along with his commis James Haibach, is a big, imposing guy, who moved around his poor little competition kitchen with a ruthless authority. I didn’t know quite what I expected from him, but the downright artistic meat platter he sent out stunned me with both its delicacy and its sophisticated use of light and dimension.
- Taking note: After the competition, which I thought was immensely successful from a logistical standpoint, Gavin Kaysen commented that he was glad that all four candidates would be noticed and remembered by the judges. In recent years, when 8 or 12 chefs competed, Kaysen felt that the lowest scoring dishes all started to blur together for the judges. But with just four competitors on Sunday, he believed that each of them made an impact and an impression.
- On the other hand…: You’ve got to feel for Danny Cerqueda. Dude came back to the battlefield after competing here in 2010 and placed fourth, despite his cool, calm display under pressure and good looking if not ultra-complex cuisine. Last time there were 12 competitors, meaning 9 non-medalists; on Sunday, he was the only one, which had to be a lonely business. Danny took it well (we traded emails today, but they were personal, so no quoting) but I’d like to call for a virtual round of applause for the man and his commis, Marianne Elyse Warrick, whom I’d like to, quite presumptuously, suggest be unofficially awarded the Copper Bocuse, 2012. (PS: A nice moment: At the end of the competition, as the candidates were cleaning their stations, Lizotte came into Cerqueda’s kitchen and the guys shared a big embrace. Not many people know what it’s like to be in that box for 5 1/2 hours. It builds bonds.)
- The Mensch Chef: Personal note: I’ve yet to attend a Bocuse d’Or press conference at which Daniel Boulud doesn’t go out of his way to point me out to the attendees and mention my book, Knives at Dawn, about the 2009 Bocuse d’Or team, even a year after the paperback debuted. Thanks, Chef.
This concludes Toqueland’s coverage of the Bocuse d’Or USA, at least for a while, although I might Tweet about anything that catches my eye.
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