Created in 1987, the Bocuse d’Or International Culinary Competition is the most rigorous international culinary competition held every two years in Lyon, France. Teams of one chef and one assistant compete from 24 countries. This year, Nate French ’10, a Hobart senior from Winchester, Mass., had the rare opportunity to take part in the American trials for the Bocuse d’Or.
French was chosen as an assistant by chef Chris Parsons, owner of the Catch restaurant, where he has worked for two summers. The two went against 12 other teams in an effort to qualify for the event in France. All teams that qualified to take part in the American trials at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., were considered among the best in the business.
“Next to James Beard and Julia Childs, these chefs were the equivalents to Gretzky, Jordan, and Aaron in sports, to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle among ancient philosophers,” says French, “Quite simply monumental figures in the culinary world.”
Parsons and French arrived at the CIA on Feb. 4 and had two full days of cooking in preparation for the competition. The first day’s cooking took place in CIA classrooms, while the second day took place in the gymnasium. French described the room as completely transformed into a “culinary stadium,” with seating for about 500 people.
The duo was placed at position A4, meaning they were the first group to cook, but the last to present their platters from that group. Because so many groups were competing, the competitors were broken into three groups of four teams, all cooking simultaneously. The team was given eight hours over the two days to cook, and after their prep on Friday, felt relatively confident going into Saturday.
“Saturday was an all around incredible experience. I’ve played music live on stage before, and performed in front of relatively large audiences, but I’ve never ridden adrenaline like Saturday,” says French. Despite a few mishaps during practice runs back in Winchester, Saturday went very smoothly. Their menu was extensive, as the first platter included Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon Loin Verjus, complete with Honeyed Macomber Turnips, and Lacquered Salmon Belly. The first platter featured an Assiettte of Elysian Fields Lamb, including Lamb Loin en Crepinette and Roasted Leg en Pantoufle with Fresh Oregano.
The entrées landed Parsons and French a solid third place. James Kent of Eleven Madison Park in New York City was selected to advance to the finals in Paris and represent the United States. According to French, Kent’s food possessed the style and taste that will give America its best chance to get on the podium next year in Lyon.
“It was an incredible experience, and a complete honor to take third place amongst so many great chefs,” he says.
As a student at HWS, French is a political science major, the current president of the Sigma Phi Society, as well as a member of the Flat Hat Dining Club. He works as a promotional advocate for Veggie Co. Records, a record label run by senior Eric Jainchill. Along with being an avid intramural athelete, the senior also plays music around campus and has played with a band known as Random Play, composed of Sarik Kumar ’11, Andrew Mahoney ’11 and Andrew Tarnas-Raskin ’11.