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Day one of the Bocuse d'Or Finale 2017 sponsored by S.Pellegrino has come to a close and what day of culinary adventure it's been in Lyon.
In front of a lively grandstand packed with passionate, flag-waving food fans, chefs from 12 countries cooked off in pursuit of the coveted gold medal at the world's most prestigous culinary competition, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Teams from Sweden, China, Finland, Chile, Japan, South Korea, France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, 2015 winners Norway and Hungary each had five and a half hours to present their plates and trays to the panel of 24 judges, which included Thomas Keller and 2017 Bocuse d'Or President of Honour Joël Robuchon, who perhaps drew the biggest cheer of the day.
Each tray was based on the concept of chicken and shellfish – specifically Bresse chicken, which was served at the first Bocuse d'Or in 1987 – while this year's plated dishes had to be 100% vegan, which resulted in an outpouring of creativity from the assembled teams.
Norway's Christopher William Davidsen presented a delicate dish of sunchoke, leek, dried greens and fresh sprouts, while the Netherlands (Jan Smink) used heart of cauliflower for the base of their dish. Black garlic was a popular ingredient, and Alexander Sjögren of Sweden kept it Nordic with a dish of potato and dill, with black truffle.
The most theatrical moment of the day came with the arrival of the Japanese meat platter: chef Kotaro Hasegawa's blue lobster-stuffed chicken with Kyoto carrot, celery and black truffle risotto, dissected by a Samurai sword. It was greeted enthusistically by the appreciative crowd, but the biggest bravo was reserved for the parading of the French tray a little later on, from chef Laurent Lemal. Bocuse d'Or European champion Tamás Széll of Hungary was also warmly recieved.
The rivalry continued in the grandstand, where the drum-banging Japanese and a predictably large, brass band-backed, La Marseillaise-singing French contingent battled it out to see who could make the most noise (the French just edged it . The cow bell-ringing Norwegians also made their presence felt.
Day two sees Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, Estonia, the USA, Iceland, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Morocco and Guatemala battle it out in the kitchen. By the end of the day, 24 chefs representing 24 countries will have cooked the harder than they've ever cooked before, but there can only be one winner – find out who, tomorrow on Fine Dining Lovers, and follow across social media using #sanpellegrinoatbocuse.
All images: Fleur Louis