The UK teams were well represented at the two top culinary contests in Lyon last week. But with other countries still eclipsing the Brits in the Bocuse d’Or and Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, the preparations for 2013 need to start now. Kerstin Kühn and Amanda Afiya report
Denmark’s Rasmus Kofoed won the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition, which took place in Lyon last week, with Sweden, Norway and Finland taking the remaining top places. The UK representative Simon Hulstone placed 13th out of 24 competing nations, a disappointing result after he came fourth at the European finals in Geneva last June.
Denmark’s winning fish platter
Hulstone worked with Team UK commis chef Jordan Bailey, sous chef at the Elephant, and a commis supplied by the competition’s organisers, and was looked on by team manager Nick Vadis, UK executive chef at Compass Group. The team worked for five-and-a-half hours preparing, cooking and serving two silver flats, one based on Scottish seafood and the other on Scottish lamb, each serving 14 people.
Hulstone’s fish course comprised dashi-poached Scottish monkfish loin with wild fennel pollen; crab “bombe”; langoustine and caviar “buttons”; lemon-infused salsify with smoked salmon; “medusa” – monkfish liver and crispy shirazu; royale of Jerusalem artichoke, truffle and pea; verjus and spring onion butter; and trawlerman’s pie.
Simon Hulstone’s meat course
His meat course was loin of Scotland’s finest lamb with sweetbreads; “spiral” of shoulder; textures of beetroot; couscous “domino” with cucumber ketchup and watermelon; charlotte of asparagus and pea, foie gras bon bon; Madeira jus; and shepherd’s pie.
The team could not pre-cut any ingredients, although they were allowed to pre-peel garlic, portion oil, salt, flour and other ingredients, and bring stocks made in advance.
The judging panel included high profile chefs such as Thomas Keller and Eric Fréchon, representing the USA and France respectively, 2009 Bocuse d’Or winner Gier Skeie of Norway and the UK’s Academy of Culinary Arts president Brian Turner.
More than 150 British supporters were in the crowd at Lyon cheering for Hulstone.
The Bocuse d’Or was founded by legendary French chef Paul Bocuse in 1987 and takes place every two years at the Sirha (Salon International de la Restauration, de l’Hotellerie et de l’Alimentation) exhibition in Lyon.
Bocuse d’Or UK candidate
Simon Hulstone, head chef, the Elephant, Torquay, Devon
“I’m disappointed, obviously; I didn’t think we deserved the position we were given. I knew we weren’t going to win – I knew that before we went – but coming 13th was a total kick in the nuts. I can’t believe we went backwards.
“What was the difference between Geneva and Lyon? Geneva was a level playing field, we were all given the same silverware – it was the food that talked. It’s a food competition – you’d expect it to be that way. When you look at the Finns, they spent over €100,000 on their silverware – it was all-singing, all-dancing. We went for modesty on the platter and flavours on the plate. [The judges award up to 20 marks for presentation and up to 40 for taste.] Everything we sent out tasted brilliant.
“But it’s not just about money. There’s a rumour that Team USA raised $2.5m. Their competitor, James Kent, told me that they had more money than they could spend. He got paid to compete – for the last four months he was paid a full wage and someone stepped in to cover his job at Eleven Madison Park in New York. I tasted his food and it was beautifully clean – you could taste everything, it was amazing. There’s no way he should have finished 10th.
“Strangely, the winner Rasmus Kofoed and bronze winner Gunnar Hvarnes did 65-75% of the same dishes they served in Geneva and yet still stayed in the top three. I served some of the elements I did in Geneva but dropped backwards. I’ve already done the dishes in my head if I could do it all again.
“With regards to the pressure of the supporters, you want them to be aware of the competition so they know what you’re going through. It was fantastic to know that it was being watched in Birmingham [at the Hospitality exhibition at the NEC] and it was fantastic that so many people came out to support us – we couldn’t even talk to each other in the kitchen it was so loud.
“The support has to be in the workplace as well as on the day. There’s no way I could do it again without being taken away from work – and I would need to be paid to be away from my restaurant. I’d have to leave someone else to run it. It’s quite a commitment.
“I’d need to work one-on-one with the best chefs in the world and work with people who are totally committed and understand the competition to the degree that the Scandinavians do. We’d need the support of chefs to come up with ideas to complement my own ideas.
“You’re up against teams that set up a training camp in France a month before the competition so that they know the route to the hall. Nick and I sat in traffic jams while everyone else was there. We had to use a kitchen to prepare in that was 40-50 minutes from the hall. You’ve got other teams taking seven, eight, nine chefs with them to set up.
“I don’t feel the pressure. I went there feeling comfortable with my cuisine, with my skills. I think the hardest part is knowing that we did well but coming back with a bad result. Nothing went wrong for us that we couldn’t rectify. We had to cook things slightly differently as the power source was not as strong as we’re used to. Both water baths couldn’t get to the temperature that we needed and we ended up steaming things. It was a spanner, but nothing major.
“My biggest problem was I felt I’d let people down – I had so much support and so much money and I felt I had wasted it. When I competed before I went under the radar, it was good and we got a result. I have had money thrown at me – not lots, but enough to help support plenty of practices.
“It was really like that football feeling when you’re sitting in a pub after a match and you think ‘we should have done so much better than that, we had a good team, we just couldn’t score a goal’.
“But my kids, Tansy and Cicely, who were there in Lyon, were still impressed. They said I was ‘fandabbydosey’ and ‘the best daddy in the world’.”
BOCUSE D’OR 2011 FULL RESULTS
5 France (special meat prize)
6 Switzerland (special fish prize)
13 United Kingdom
Spain’s winning frozen dessert in La Coupe du Monde
La Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie
The World Pastry Cup, known as La Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, is a prestigious biennial competition which was started in 1989 by Gabriel Paillasson, who, inspired by Paul Bocuse creating the Bocuse d’Or, wanted to launch a similar high profile contest for pâtisserie chefs.
The contest took place in Lyon on 23 and 24 January and saw 19 countries compete for the title, each comprising a pastry chef, a chocolate specialist and an ice-cream maker. Each team had 10 hours to prepare and present a buffet including three chocolate desserts; three frozen fruit desserts; an ice sculpture; a chocolate sculpture; a sculpture made from drawn sugar and a dessert on a plate.
Spain won the gold medal and cash prize of €12,000, with Italy and Belgium picking up the silver and bronze medals and €7,000 and €4,000 respectively.
Team UK finished in ninth position and was also awarded a special prize for the best promotional campaign. The team comprised Javier Mercado and Chris Loder, pastry lecturers at Westminster Kingsway College, and Johannes Bonin, pastry chef at the Connaught Hotel. They were supported by UK president and judge Benoit Blin, executive pastry chef at Raymond Blanc’s two-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire.
It was the first time that a UK team had taken part in La Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie since 2003 .
LA COUPE DU MONDE DE LA PATISSERIE FULL RESULTS
5 South Korea
6 United States
9 United Kingdom
Bocuse d’Or UK judge
Brian Turner, president, Academy of Culinary Arts
“While we did expect a higher position, even a place on the podium, we cannot be too downbeat about the final outcome. What happened in Lyon has proved that we need to delve deeper into what makes a winner and increase our understanding of what the majority of judges are looking for.
“On the day you have to be on top of your game 100% and hope that some of the other countries aren’t. I think Simon’s result was circumstantial but he wasn’t on the ball enough and things didn’t go as planned. Having said that, I do feel he deserved better than 13th place.
“The standard of entry this time was incredible and right now the UK simply can’t match the level of commitment that these winning chefs can give [to the competition]. Rasmus Kofoed spent the last eight years of his life preparing to win gold and has already won bronze and silver.
“Nothing inspires success as much as failure. The countries that didn’t do well in Geneva but managed to eclipse us in Lyon were clearly motivated by the beating they got then. They got their heads down and spent more time and money to up their game. Just because you have a big budget doesn’t necessarily guarantee success but it definitely ups your chances.
“Regardless of our position in Lyon, Simon’s ability and passion for representing his country has captured the imagination of hundreds of chefs and industry professionals.
“We must also look back at what we have achieved. The number of supporters increased by at least 100% from 2009 to 2011, funding increased from a few hundred pounds to more than £60,000 and we’ve secured significant media interest – which is key to raising awareness and hopefully more funds. I am so grateful to everyone who supported Simon both financially and in their vociferous presence in Lyon.
“But we need to continue to build on these foundations to ensure that we can give future candidates the support and the insight that they need to perform successfully in this spectacular contest.”
Bocuse d’Or UK coach
Nick Vadis, UK executive chef, Compass Group UK & Ireland
“I’d love to be involved again. Geneva was a huge high but then it was a level playing field. Money doesn’t talk too much there. It’s what you put on that flat that counts; the food shines through.
“I’ve learnt a lot. Simon has in Geneva and in Lyon given more than any other competitor, he runs a successful business, manages and develops a loyal brigade and is a great role model for all chefs as a consummate professional.
“There are many reasons why the Scandinavians do well. Their food is very on trend at the moment, with the World’s Best Restaurant hailing from Denmark, and they have good financial backing. Sweden is backed by the tourist board. All the Scandinavian governments see the Bocuse d’Or as a way of promoting their countries – it helps to put them on the culinary map and drives more funding. All these contributing factors stack up and help.
“I didn’t feel there was any warmth or love towards us. Even some of the judges didn’t want to look Simon in the face. The only judge who was complimentary was Thomas Keller.
“It takes a certain type of person to do this competition and I’d love Simon to give it one more stab, with learning, more financial support, more technical support, and a design team – we know the Scandinavians have a design team working on everything including the box that it’s all carried in.
It didn’t help when I was lifted out of the kitchen on day one of the competition to help with judging. If they’d taken the USA coach, that would have left seven or eight chefs in their team – with me being selected, it meant I left a team of two.
In terms of some of the other European teams overtaking us from Geneva, I think for a start Germany and Switzerland have much bigger budgets and with that kind of backing you can see how they leapfrog other candidates.
Whenever you create any kind of media campaign, you heighten the pressure and I know for a fact Simon was under more pressure. There’s no other competition like it in the world and there was certainly added pressure and expectation. My view is he did very well in Lyon and came 13th – that’s 13th in the world.
I think we can see benefits already from this year’s campaign. There’s the awareness of competition, the credibility of it, the UK awareness as a whole. Simon can take massive credit for that. He’s a true ambassador, he has put it on the map in the UK and we need to keep shining a light on it. We need to keep it in the public eye and in people’s minds. It does need money – and commitment, but commitment’s free from a special individual.”
Coupe du Monde UK candidate
Chris Loder pastry lecturer, Westminster Kingsway College, London
“We’re very pleased with our result. Considering the time we had to get organised and find funding and sponsorship, we did extremely well to come ninth. We made a few mistakes on the day, which probably cost us a few places, but with competitions of this kind it comes down to giving your best on the day.
“Having done the Coupe du Monde now, we would definitely like to do it again and achieve a higher position next time. I guess we’re suckers for punishment! We now know what the conditions are like – the kitchens get extremely hot and there are different pressures to cope with throughout the day. It is a really demanding competition and making the showpieces is an incredible task. We created eight different models in the run up to Lyon and most nights I was up until 3am creating moulds.
“The first hurdle will be the qualifying in Paris next March. We’ll need to get the management structure of the team in place and get the team itself together early. Time was the biggest challenge so for the 2013 Coupe du Monde we’ll need to get organised a lot sooner.”