French ’10 in Culinary Competition – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

French ’10 in Culinary Competition

The Bocuse d’Or International Culinary Competition, named for the renowned French chef Paul Bocuse, will take place in one year in Lyon, France, with chefs from 24 countries competing. The American trials take place this weekend and Hobart senior Nathaniel French is among the contestants, working with a team from restaurant Catch, in Winchester, Mass., owned by Christopher Parsons.

According to an article this week in The Boston Globe, “Parsons and his team are up against 11 other teams from New York’s Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, the French Culinary Institute, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, James of Philadelphia, and more. The event takes place at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. The winning team has one year to perfect its skills under the tutelage of uber chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jerome Bocuse (Paul Bocuse’s son).”

The article goes on to explain the Bocuse d’Or seeks to foster young talent so it requires each chef to work with an assistant aged 22 or younger (a “commis”). French is the 21-year-old commis of Parsons. He worked at Catch for the last two summers. “Parsons felt that the capable and eager assistant was the perfect choice,” states the article. It goes on to quote French, “To get to this competition is pretty awesome.”

French is majoring in political science and has been named to the Dean’s List.

The complete article about the competition, and what Parsons and French will prepare for it, follows.


The Boston Globe
Turning up the heat at elite competition
Lisa Zwirn • Globe Correspondent • February 3, 2010

WINCHESTER – One of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the world doesn’t take place on a frantic TV set. It will be held a year from now in Lyon, France, with chefs from 24 countries cooking their way to the highest honors.

The Bocuse d’Or International Culinary Competition, named for the renowned French chef Paul Bocuse, is holding its American trials on Saturday. Among the contestants is Dover native Christopher Parsons, chef and owner of Catch in Winchester.

Parsons and his team are up against 11 other teams from New York’s Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, the French Culinary Institute, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, James of Philadelphia, and more. The event takes place at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. The winning team has one year to
perfect its skills under the tutelage of uber chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jerome Bocuse (Paul Bocuse’s son).

Part of the purpose of the Bocuse d’Or is to foster young talent. Each chef works with a commis (assistant), who must be 22 or younger. Parsons’s commis is Nathaniel French (can a name be a good omen?), a 21-year-old senior majoring in political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. French worked at Catch for the last two summers preparing cold appetizers, salads, and
garnishes. Parsons felt that the capable and eager assistant was the perfect choice. French says, “To get to this competition is pretty awesome.”

There are few surprises in the trials. Everyone has been working on their presentations for months. Chefs prepare two platters – one featuring salmon, the other lamb, each accompanied by three elaborate garnishes – in 5 1/2 hours. The judges include chefs Grant Achatz, David Chang, Tom Colicchio, and Eric
Ripert, who score taste, presentation, and overall kitchen organization.

Parsons, who competed in the 1998 team trials and placed fifth, is prepared for a tough contest. Contenders range in age from 22 to 40. At 39, Parsons is one of the more experienced chefs, having worked in Boulder, Colo., and New York before Boston. “If we win the US competition, it would be a great life experience,” he says, quickly adding, “We definitely want to win the whole thing.”

No American team has won a medal in Lyon. The best US ranking was sixth place in 2003 and 2009, the latter by chef Timothy Hollingsworth of Napa Valley’s The French Laundry. France and Norway have cooked their way to the most gold. The grueling demands of the competition are described in the new book “Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d’Or Competition” by Andrew Friedman.

Even in culinary circles, the Bocuse d’Or is not as widely known as the heavily promoted Top Chef and Iron Chef. “Part of the reason I’m attracted to [the Bocuse d’Or] is that it’s not mainstream,” says Parsons. Other chefs may be scared off by the intensity. European teams are known to train for years and are supported by million-dollar budgets. There’s also the onerous time commitment and technical nature of the assignment. “The whole idea of perfecting a platter of food for a year is kind of crazy,” Parsons admits. “But it’s also kind of cool.

Parsons and French will be making lacquered salmon belly with fried foie gras, rolls of salmon loin, roulade of lamb sweetbreads with zucchini flan, and lamb loin en crepinette, among other preparations. One of the garnishes is a tri-colored rectangle of pan-fried polenta topped with sauteed chard and mostarda.

Earlier this week, Parsons and his wife and co-owner, Megan, announced that they’re changing the name and concept of Catch later this month. It will be called Parsons Table and feature comfort food made with local ingredients. The chef wants to relocate Catch in Boston or Cambridge.

The chef and his assistant are making dishes for the Bocuse d’Or based on specialities from Catch. For the competition, however, the presentation is more ornate. The chef is melding elements of classical French cooking with molecular gastronomy (olive brine spheres and verjus bubbles), seasonality (turnips
and chard), and Provençal touches (caramelized onion and zucchini tart).

“They’re straightforward, sensible flavor combinations,” says Parsons. “I don’t think we played it safe, but I tried to play it smart.”

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company