Spirit of Chef Competitions

asparagus foie

Reading an article in a Los Angles newspaper online this morning has given me a little food for thought. It stated that many considered The Bocuse d’Or the Culinary Olympics, rather than the Culinary Olympics held in Germany every 4 years.

I must stress that I enormously support and am in great admiration of both competitions, as I am of all culinary competitions around the globe that promote excellence in the chef profession. But, it must be known that many of these competitions are well beyond the grasp of the majority of chefs. Yes, I do know that there are inroads into promoting and training across the globe and the drive to help those in deprived areas across the spectrum.

As an African, I have been privileged to be in a position to receive help and training as a youngster and went on to win Medals at various International Competitions and therefore have an insight into the mechanics of these events.

I find myself in the position where I question the money, time and effort that goes into winning this prestigious award. It is a known fact that some of these chefs practise their dishes over two years and even get given time off work for up to six months prior to the competition to practise their dishes full-time. It seems to me then that this is an unfair playing field or that there is an element of elitism, as most chefs do not have these possibilities at their disposal. I personally would not expect anything other than pure perfection from someone who has been practising a dish for two years; it would be a clinical procedure of producing a dish that has been taken apart and perfected each time over and over, with input and scrutiny from many quarters in the setup involved and sponsoring the contestant.

In reflection, I believe that the ‘Chef or Team Grand Prix’ is still the ultimate chef competition test. This is where a chef or team is presented with a mystery box of ingredients shortly before cooking commences. It is without any debate that this form of competing shows all the skills required from a good chef, being;

  • Creativity
  • Knowledge of tastes and use of ingredients
  • Skills
  • Organisation and planning
  • Timing
  • The ability to work under pressure
  • Hygiene

Just to mention a few.

I fully appreciate the Static and display work, but it is not the ultimate skill challenge. The sugar work, chocolate work and showpiece are magnificent, however, I personally would like to see more of the ‘Grand Prix’ style competitions placed in Lyon, Basel, Luxembourg, and London and around the globe where these competitions should be promoted and open to all with the most basic of Chef credentials.

A final thought is that I was amazed at the lack of attention paid to the season and the ingredients used  to reflect this important fact. When doing consultancy work, I am always amazed at the fact that so many chefs are not fully aware of when the season is for the product they are cooking, which indicates that they have little knowledge of where the ingredients originates from or how fresh it is.

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