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Day one got off to an energy charged start at Bocuse d'Or Europe 2018, sponsored by S.Pellegrino, where the first 10 countries stepped up to the plate in the world's most prestigious cooking competition in Turin, Italy.
It may have been raining outside, but that did little to dampen the supporters' enthusiasm and the cacophony of sound generated in support of their respective chef teams from Poland, Belgium, Iceland, Hungary, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Switzerland and the UK.
As clackers and claxons reverberated from the side-line inside, 10 chefs, their commis chefs and coaches worked with focus and vigour for five and a half hours in their respective kitchens, chasing the chance to represent their countries at the Grand Finale in Lyon in 2019.
If that pressure wasn't enough, a kitchen jury circulated amongst the 10 teams, observing hygiene and technique, while the coaches kept a tight rein on the time with stop clocks, laptops and carefully orchestrated to do lists at the ready.
Themes on a Plate
Images: Giulia Aragona
An extensive tasting jury, fronted by presidents Jerome Bocuse, Tamas Szell, Carlo Cracco and Enrico Crippa, were at the ready to taste the succession of stunning dishes on two themes when time was called in each kitchen.
Each of the teams produced a 'Theme on a plate' dish using Castelmagno PDO cheese and chicken eggs, and individual portions sufficient to serve 15 judges. A surprise ingredient of spaghetti was also announced last night, which upset the coherence of a few of the teams' dishes.
The second challenge presented was the impressive 'Theme on a platter' showcasing Itialian ingredients. Male beef fillet of fassona Piemontese pedigree and Calf sweetbread plus Vercellese rice were creatively worked into a presentation on a giant platter carried out by the likes of Davide Oldani and friends before being dismantled and served for the judges.
From the UK's riff on beef wellington to Hungary's complex dish of asparagus and tapoica, all teams were able to present on time despite some technical setbacks like faulty ovens and floods.
Speaking after the event, an exhausted Polish team felt their three months of training had paid off, while Lars Drost from The Netherlands said it had "been hard, but it was nice," and their training had come into play in surmounting problems they'd encountered along the way.
Day Two ...
Day two sees Croatia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Bulgaria, Estonia and Turkey go head to head in the kitchen. By the end of the day, all 20 chefs representing 20 countries will have cooked, but only 10 teams will go on to Lyon for the Grand Finale. Find out who tomorrow on Fine Dining Lovers, and follow across social media using #finedininglovers #bocusedor #bocusedoreurope #roadtolyon