As we made our final descent in to Salt Lake City, the Olympic rings appeared and I felt every hair on my body stand up. Awarded the bid to build and supply the athlete’s kitchens, I accompanied my father to the event of a lifetime in 2002. Witnessing each athlete’s display of unwavering determination to practice and presentation triggered my lifelong addiction to competition. Last week I had the privilege of watching another group of world class competitors first hand in Lyon, France at the 2017 Bocuse D’Or.
Every two years, in conjunction with the Sirha tradeshow, twenty four chefs are invited to the Bocuse D’Or to display the world’s greatest culinary technique to an international jury of experts. Fourteen themed plates and one avant-garde grandiose staging presentation are prepared in five hours and thirty five minutes. Over the course of 30 years and 15 grand finale events, 2015 marked the first year Team USA reached the podium (2017 Coach Philip Tessier) and the only time our country had placed higher than sixth.
To pay homage to the 30th anniversary of the single greatest culinary competition in the world, the theme on a tray had the same requirements as it did in inaugural 1987 Bocuse D’Or – Bresse Chicken and Live Crayfish (or one of four other selected shellfish products.) For the first time, emphasis was placed on a vegan course for the theme on a plate. Treating vegetal products as main ingredients is not entirely new, but attention on this stage as the opening course is monumental.
Our candidate, Mathew Peters, and his commis, (junior chef) Harrison Turone, were one of the twelve countries to compete on day two. Work as a team. Represent your country. Respect the products. Show imagination and freedom. Limit Waste. Serve humanism. Remain humble. In front of the largest congress of culinary elite assembled anywhere in the world.
With three hundred Americans 300 degrees around me, we cheered for three hundred and thirty five minutes on Tuesday, January 24th. Our vegan plate featured California Green Asparagus and Sauce Bordelaise, inspired by Chef Peters culinary journey across America. Our stunning silver plated platter created by Crucial Detail, which included a component of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, had a hidden heating element underneath the bone china petal inserts to allow the modules to maintain temperature while making its way around the stadium.
We then waited for three hundred and forty additional minutes to hear the results. The trepidation on my face and red pom poms in my hands were captured on the live feed and I began to receive texts from around the US. Our customers at the Philadelphia Cricket Club alongside their sales representative, Rick Snyder, questioned if the results were coming in faster live or if the award presentation was simply delayed almost two hours.
The most historic moment in American cuisine arrived around 8pm in Lyon as Mathew Peters reached the summit. America had won the Bocuse D’Or for the first time in its thirty year history!
When asked about his motivation, Mathew Peters shared this quote. “If you want to become the best, then you must go forward and walk with the best.” The Per Se Sous-Chef took the past year off to train for this monumental day. His boss and Team USA President, Thomas Keller exclaimed that “there are no words to describe how proud we are.”
To other publications who criticize Thomas Keller for the cost of his cuisine, or write about the irrelevance of this moment just hours after the accomplishment, reconsider the impact of your words on the people and companies who were instrumental in this momentous occasion and what they do for each and every one of us. Learn more at MentorBKB.org and support those who put great American culinary center stage for the first time. For everyone in the culinary ecosystem that was a part of this win, thank you. Being your cheerleader is not a responsibility I take lightly.
There are three very special companies I would like to spotlight in this feature.
Villeroy and Boch is the official plateware sponsor of the Bocuse D’Or. This year’s competition featured their latest Artesano Collection. Should you like to see this dinnerware along with others from V&B, stop into our customer, The Standard Hotels in NYC.
The second is Steelite International, whom financially and physically supported Team USA on their entire #RoadToLyon and invited me to join them on this monumental ride.
Finally, to the Singer Equipment Companies, for their commitment to strong partnerships and for supporting my #RoadToLyon.