It was a cold morning in Mexico City but things heated up on the first day of the Latin American finals of the Bocuse d'Or competition. On Day 1 of the prestigious event sponsored by S.Pellegrino, we saw highly skilled chefs from Colombia, Basil, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay face off in the kitchen.
On Day 2 delegates from Peru, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and Costa Rica will compete. Afterwards, three finalists will be selected to complete in the worldwide finals to be held next year in Lyon, where they will hash it out in the kitchen with rivals from Europe and Asia.
Meat dish from Brazilian chef Giovanna Grossi
A Highly Demanding Event
Bocuse d'Or is a highly demanding event in which everything is timed and examined by qualified judges with broad experience. Besides talent, other elements come into play, such as time and finances.
Judge Guy Santoro, president of Vatel Club Mexico, explains: "Each chef is also conditioned by their country's economy. It is a costly competition which requires financial investment and human capital, as well as the attention each team devotes to the contestant."
courtesy Judith Rodriguez Servín
The importance of Team Work
We have to remember each participating country has a president, a judge qualifies the flavor and quality of ingredients, a judge that serves as a coach, and a team of four cooks that support the participating chef.
In the case of Mexico, chef Victor Becerra (pictured above) has had a tough and intense training as he was just selected as a replacement with very little lead time, adding pressure to his work.
In contrast, judge Laurent Saudeau, who is of French origin and lives in Sao Paulo and disciple of Paul Bocuse says "Giovanna Grossi arrived from France specifically to compete in the internal selection of Brazil and won. She has been training since November with the support of chefs Victor Vasconcellos and Nicholas Santos."
courtesy Bocuse d'Or Latin America
Sensitivity for raw materials
It is interesting to note that this year the organizing committee, in contrast to the pomp surrounding this event, opted for one of the most humble fish: tilapia. This variety of fish is farmed in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico.
"Competitions are a challenge and compared to the high-end fish we have in Chile, where we are used to working with deep sea fish, it is real challenging to deal with farmed fish because you have to work more to bring out the flavor because it is more neutral and the texture is very different. But we are calm because we got to Mexico 15 days ago and have been practicing "explained the chef and judge Sebastián Salas, who also advises competing chef Homero Burgos from Chile.
For his part, Ecuadorian chef Erick Dreyer (pictured up top) prepared tilapia with citrus, saffron and purple corn with bergamot, serving purple corn souffle as a side topped with tapioca caviar with fresh pomegranate seeds.
For the meat dish, the choice was beef tenderloin from Uruguay, a country renowned for the quality of its livestock and represented in the race by young chef Jessica Tony.
Bocuse d'Or Latin American Judges
This edition featured the presence of chefs Enrique Olvera from Mexico, Gaston Acurio from Peru, and the Mexican Martha Ortiz Chapa as president of the jury who will resolve any dispute.
Without a doubt, the Bocuse d'Or competition is an enormous opportunity to foster and develop Latin American talent. This should be the driving force for participating countries. The commitment, time and dedication necessary for this competition also requires interest from the industry and industry leaders.
Stay tuned for our report of Day 2 at Bocuse d'Or Latin American finals...