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Chef Mathew Peters and the USA team have taken gold at the Bocuse d'Or 2017 sponsored by S.Pellegrino after a thrilling two days of culinary competition in Lyon, France.
Peters (Per Se restaurant, New York) and his commis Harrison Turone wowed the assembled judges, including 2017 Bocuse d'Or President of Honour Joël Robuchon, with their interpretation of the brief to create a platter based around chicken and crayfish – in this case, chicken stuffed with mushrooms, foie gras and crawfish – and a 100% vegan plate of California green asparagus with toasted almond custard.
A mobbed Peters, draped in the Stars and Stripes and with his arms around his teammates, looking every bit the kitchen Olympian, told Fine Dining Lovers: “I want to thank all these guys [the team] right here, every single one of them. You can’t do it without them.” Read the full interview here.
There had been anticipation in the room that perhaps France were going to scoop the gold medal on the occassion of the Bocuse d'Or's 30th anniversary, and after winning both best vegetable plate and best commis (Benjamin Vakana).
But it was the USA's night (France came fifth), and the team answered in unison when asked what they would be doing to celebrate – "We're going to Disneyland," they laughed. "But perhaps a nap first," added Peters.
Judge and USA team member Thomas Keller said he was immensely proud of Peters and the team, and the win, the USA's first in the competition, had allowed them to keep a promise he'd made to Paul Bocuse, who sadly couldn't be in attendance on the night. "When we started this almost nine years ago we promised Monsieur Paul that we would get gold. I’m really, really proud today that we’re able to honour Monsieur Paul,” said Keller.
Chef Christopher William Davidsen and the Norway team claimed the silver medal, with chef Viktor Andrésson and the Iceland team in third, which delighted the strong Icelandic contingent in the grandstand.
The judges are ready
Day two of the competition saw Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, Estonia, the USA, Iceland, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Morocco and Guatemala competing in front an even more boisterous crowd than day one, with the Brazilian fans out-singing their US, Australian, Moroccan and Icelandic rivals.
Indeed, the arrival of Brazilian chef Giovanna Grossi's meat platter of chicken with lobster mosaic, lobster sauce, chicken offal, foie gras stuffed with brazil nuts, and pumpkin puree prompted a deafening roar from the Brazilian fans. Earlier in the day, the only woman ever to win the Bocuse d'Or, in 1989, Luxembourg's Lee Linster, issued a rallying call to female chefs, urging them "not to be afraid" to enter the world's most prestigious gastronomy competition. There was hope in the expectant room that maybe Grossi could follow Linster into the history books. Alas, it wasn't to be.
The challenge of creating an all vegan dish plate coaxed the best out of the assembled chefs with judge Thomas Keller stressing that it was an "opportunity to present vegetables in a very dynamic way." Australia's Dan Arnold presented a beautiful dish of Queensland avocado, with chickpeas, mango, confit of Jerusalem artichoke, parsley root and amaranth ash that brought to mind the colours of the nation's flag, while Iceland constructed a visually fresh terrine of artichoke with almonds, black garlic, Icelandic cucumber, apple and dill oil.
Other vegetable dishes of note included Guatemala's (Marcos Jose Saenz Gonzalez) squash with beetroot, apple, chocolate cream and olive oil-marinated mushrooms, Singapore's (Eng Tong Yew) candied carrots, glazed beetroot, smoked onion, ginger, Jerusalem artichoke – perhaps the most popular ingredient of the day – and kaffir lime in the shape of Singapore's flag, and Swiss chef's Filipe Fonseca Finheiro's Swiss Alps rosti with carrot ravioli.
Singapore's vegetable dish
When it came to meat, Estonia's chicken with a crayfish flan and bisque and a morel and hazelnut oil faux egg was as captivating as their delicate vegetable plate of baby leeks, young parsley root and crispy buckwheat, while Morocco impressed with a meat platter of lobster cooked with carrot and cognac, kidney stew and candied chicken.
But the event belonged to the USA team and no-one leaving the hall would forget that, with the coda of "USA!!, USA!!" ringing out.
All images: Fleur Louis