Bocuse d'Or Europe 2020, sponsored by S.Pellegrino, got off to an electric start today in Tallinn, Estonia, when the first eight countries competing in the world's most prestigious cooking competition stepped into the bright lights.
Sideline supporters might have been in short supply, given the current Covid safety restrictions, but that did little to distract from the enthusiasm and energy of today's competing teams; Spain, the Netherlands, Iceland, Estonia, Denmark, Sweden, Georgia (debut entry) and Poland. The Turkish team were also scheduled to take part, but didn't turn up.
Since 8.30 this morning, the teams - comprised of the chefs, their commis chefs and coaches - put 18 months of intense training into practice, as they worked with unfaltering precision and focus to create their hugely demanding dishes in just five and a half hours.
A circulating kitchen jury - observing kitchen hygiene, waste and technique - made even more intimidating by their black face masks, kept a watchful eye as the finely-tuned teams worked to realise their dreams of appearing at the Grand Finale in Lyon in 2021.
This year's 'theme on a plate' proved challenging given teams such as the Netherlands and Denmark had never cooked with the local Estonian fish before, and judge Clare Smyth admitted it was the first time she'd tried it. However, Régis Marcon, president of the international organisation committee for Bocuse d’Or, was excited to note that he could immediately recognise the native fish on host country Estonia's plate.