It is indisputably the most prestigious cooking competition in the world. The Bocuse d’Or was created in 1987 by the legendary (nonagenarian) French chef, Paul Bocuse. Every two years, it invites 24 young chefs from around the world to a wild and crazy cook-off in Lyons. Each must prepare meat and fish courses, accompanied by three “original garnishes” in 5 hours and 35 minutes. No idea why the 35 minutes… but I’m looking forward to finding out tonight when I’ll have a chance to ask the guy for whom those minutes will matter immensely.
I have the pleasure of a seat at Marc Lepine’s Atelier tonight. Lepine is hosting a fundraising dinner in honour of Trevor Ritchie, the 32-year-old Chef Technologist at George Brown College, winner of the 2016 Bocuse d’Or Canada, candidate for the January 2019 Bocuse d’Or.
Though he has one more hurdle to leap through ahead of Grand Finale 13 months from now. For the first time in its thirty-year history, there will be a further screening of Bocuse d’Or candidates from North and South America. Ritchie, accompanied by his Commis, Navjeet Singh, will head to Mexico City in April for the Bocuse d’Or of the Americas. There he’ll meet 11 other chefs in competition for five spots reserved for the finals.
The Atelier dinner tonight will help him offset some of the costs associated with this extra competition, and with the enormous undertaking that will have him represent Canada on the international stage.
Trevor Ritchie has attended one Bocuse d’Or show, eight years ago, as observer. Or, more likely, as part of the general revelry and madness. (“There are 20,000 screaming fans, cheering on their chef-team” he told me, as he and his well-iced fish were chugging along the rails from Toronto to Ottawa this morning. “It’s like going to a European soccer match.”) He was also the team coach for Chef James Olberg, who represented Canada at this year’s Bocuse d’Or, 11 months ago. (Team Olberg placed 17th out of 24 chefs.) “For me, (representing Canada at the Bocuse d’Or)… is a 15 year dream and a passion that has burned inside me throughout those years.”
There has never not been a Canadian chef at the final bi-annual competition, and Ritchie tells me he’s very confident he’ll not break that pattern. Tonight’s dinner will help with that.
I’m told Ritchie’s Acadian smoked sturgeon and its gorgeous New Brunswick caviar will be course one. Marc Lepine will manage dessert. Tonka beans, of course, will feature. In the middle will be four dishes from four Ottawa chefs, all Gold Medal Plates winners, past and present. They are: Jamie Stunt, chef at large (GMP gold medallist, 2012), Patrick Garland of Absinthe (GMP winner, 2014) Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon (GMP, 2016), and Briana Kim of Café My House (GMP gold medallist 2017, and our Canadian Culinary Championships candidate 2018!). And, of course, Marc Lepine and Team Atelier are GMP winners in 2011 and 2015, and the only two time gold medallists at the Canadian Culinary Championships of 2012 and 2016. It’s a pretty stunning lineup!
The dinner sold out weeks ago, I regret to report. But I’ll endeavour to help you eat along with me tonight.