We need to invest in talent now to reap the rewards in more profitable years, says Electrolux Professional managing director Andrew Jones
When I wrote a letter to Caterer & Hotelkeeper back in January 2009, Simon Hulstone was close to the final stages of his preparation for the Bocuse d'Or and had literally been begging his contacts for financial help. Hardly anyone had heard of the Bocuse d'Or and no one appreciated the amount of work and commitment required to perform successfully at this level.
While Simon did his country proud, especially given his limited preparations and funding, it almost shames me to say that he was supported by a crowd of less than 20 people when he competed in the final. I know, because I was one of them.
Now, almost two years on, there's been progress. In April this year, the Bocuse d'Or fund was set up to cover Team UK's costs, including ingredients, equipment, accommodation, travel and transportation and to help increase awareness and encourage financial support.
The fund is made up of donations from Electrolux Professional, Compass Group, Unilever Foodsolutions and Nestlé Professional. However, we still have a long way to go before we are even close to some of the other nations in terms of financial support.
While I accept that we are working against one of the worst economic backdrops for decades, we need to be investing in our talent now in order to reap the rewards in more profitable years. By performing well on a global stage, Team UK will make the nation proud and inspire a new generation of chefs.
It will also help us to create a solid succession plan for future candidates, each time building on the experience, knowledge and expertise of the last.
Not only that, success at the Bocuse d'Or will formally put Britain on the global culinary map and demonstrate that as a nation we take our cuisine seriously.
Simon Hulstone is a seasoned competition chef, but the Bocuse d'Or is not just something you just turn up to - other candidates have months, even years to practise. Simon has to squeeze his run-throughs into the three weeks before the competition, when he can afford to close his restaurant.
As a trustee of the Bocuse d'Or fund, I often get asked how individuals can show their support for Simon. My answer is simple - donate money, prizes, or equipment and come along to cheer on Team UK in Lyon in January next year. Having won the meat platter prize at the European heats, Simon has already been recognised as "one to watch", now let's give him the support he needs to make him "one to win"!
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT SIMON
Electrolux has launched a petition to help raise awareness of the Bocuse d'Or and encourage donations. Add your name to the list at http://bocusedor.thestaffcanteen.com. You can also vote in the http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/11/12/335895/cesa-conference-delegates-raise-17000-for-team-uks-bocuse-dor-bid.htm" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Bocuse d'Or poster contest](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/11/04/335833/Show-your-support-for-Team-UK-in-the-Bocuse-dOr-poster.htm).
[CESA conference delegates raise £17,000 for Team UK's Bocuse d'Or bid >>