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Bocuse challenge requires support, says Ritz executive chef

12 February 2009 by
Bocuse challenge requires support, says Ritz executive chef

John Williams, executive chef at the Ritz and chairman of the Academy of Culinary Arts, says the UK entrant needs more support - and coverage - to succeed at the Bocuse d'Or.

The Bocuse d'Or is the largest cookery competition in the world, as anyone who has been there will tell you. Some of the very best chefs in the world are there to judge, to follow or just to pay homage to the great man himself.

I am at a loss to understand why this great event is not supported by the mainstream media in the UK. It has all the drama of the Olympics and the World Cup rolled into one, and when you consider the high profile that cooking programs have on TV these days, it is a mystery why it does not attract more national media attention. I know that if the public had the chance to watch the build-up and the actual competition they would be captivated. So what's the problem?

It all comes down to money and sponsorship. The UK team has been solely supported in the past by small business associates to raise funds. I might add that this year had nothing to do with the credit crunch: it is always hard. Could the Government, or a large national company not help with sponsorship? The US team was headed by Thomas Keller and they finished in fifth place. They had a reported budget of $500,000 (£340,000).

I really believe we have a chance of a medal, but we need to support the competitor in developing the best dish. This has cost implications, financial and time-wise, to allow enough practice sessions. The entrant is given a theme such as cod for the first dish, Aberdeen Angus for the second, a minimum of three garnishes for a total of 14 covers, 12 dressed on silver and two plated. As the food is so refined, the silver and the plates are important as they have to evolve to make the perfect combination.

We have a great competitor in Simon Hulstone, who would like to do it again - once bitten, you have to go back - but we need to get behind him with full financial support. If we do, I promise we can challenge for a medal. And the other promise is that it will not cost $500,000!

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