The Bocuse d'Or, the prestigious international culinary competition founded by Paul Bocuse, has introduced a major overhaul of its rules in a bid to bring more spontaneity, showmanship and an international flavour to the contest.
Twenty-five years after its launch, the competition has changed some of the regulations for the world final, which will take place in Lyon in January 2013, to avoid the overtraining and lack of creativity often displayed on the day.
Candidates from the 24 participating countries normally serve a fish and a meat platter to a jury of 12 judges at the final. However, for the first time competing chefs will have to serve their fish course on to 14 individual plates instead and they will also be asked to improvise on two of the three vegetable garnishes.
The chefs will be given 1.5 hours on the day before the final to shop for two of the accompanying ingredients for their fish course, while the third, which can be brought along, must represent the culinary heritage of their home country, and which the candidates will be marked on. Once the chefs have chosen their ingredients, they will have to create and write the recipe of their fish dish the day before the final.
The fish the candidates are working with will not be announced until November. The meat course, which will be served as normal on a platter with three chosen side dishes, will be based on the main ingredient of grass-fed Irish beef fillet, accompanied by paleron, cheek and tail.
Brian Turner, president of the Academy of Culinary Arts and the UK Bocuse d'Or team and UK jury, welcomed the changes. "It's good to hear that the Bocuse d'Or competition is constantly changing, appraising and moving on," he said.
"The new geographic specificity element is going to be an interesting new twist: clearly the jury will have an idea of what makes a good dish when it is pertinent to their own home country. Where things are more open to interpretation is when they will lend their judging skills to elements that they are not necessarily familiar with - for example, if we were to do something with Yorkshire pudding."
Meanwhile, a new kitchen jury has also been introduced, which will award 20% of the overall mark based on hygiene, waste and teamwork and can penalise candidates for not facing the audience or not serving their meat in one piece.
Adam Bennett, head chef at Simpsons restaurant in Birmingham and the UK Bocuse d'Or candidate, said: "The news of the fish garnish really levels the playing field. I'm excited about the changes to the rules, and I'm hugely looking forward to sourcing and cooking the Irish beef fillet. Once I've had a chance to experiment, the ideas will be able to flow from there."
By Kerstin Kühn
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