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Tracking the Bocuse d'Or: Norwegian wins, American places 6th

January 28, 2009 |  1:07 pm

Geirwin_3 At the Bocuse d'Or culinary competition in Lyon, France, Norway's Geir Skeie won the golden trophy, besting Sweden's Jonas Lundgren (silver) and France's Philippe Mille (bronze). American Timothy Hollingsworth, a sous chef at the French Laundry, took sixth place, to the disappointment of supporters and fans (including Bocuse d'Or founder Paul Bocuse) who had expected him to make podium.

"It was a different environment, but we were really well prepared," Hollingsworth says. Still, "when I look at the platters, I see a lot of faults. There's always room for improvement."

Skeie, a chef at the Restaurant Midtaasen in Sandefjord, Norway, had reason to celebrate. "This has been my dream for 15 years," he says, "since I was 13 years old. You can hardly imagine how I feel. It has been my best day ever."

Over the two-day contest, chefs from 24 countries competed for the golden Bocuse d’Or trophy (made in the likeness of Paul Bocuse) and 20,000 euros (about $26,000). Each had five hours and 35 minutes to prepare two elaborate platters, in front of an audience of screaming fans wielding cowbells, pompoms, clackers and horns.

There was hilarity. Two emcees -- one English-speaking and one French-speaking -- narrated the event, to humorous effect. When Hollingsworth presented his beef platter, the French emcee chanted, "U-S-A, you-don't-say, U-S-A, you-don't-say."

And there were glitches. France's Mille presented his seafood platter late, which cost him precious points. According to the New York Times, some contestants were surprised that the prawns had been frozen. 

"I think that there are always complications," Hollingsworth says. "We were dealing with different ovens and different equipment, but we adapted to them. The shrimp were a lot smaller than I was expecting,  so one of the garnishes [side dishes] we had to change at the last minute -- the shrimp and avocado tart."

Now, Hollingsworth says he's looking forward to getting back to the French Laundry kitchen. "The past six months of my life has been a blur, and it's going to take a while to digest what has happened."

-- Betty Hallock

Photo of Geir Skeie by Paal-Andre Schwital