Life at UCB through the eyes of our student bloggers

My week with the Bocuse d’Or

My week with the Bocuse d’Or

In 1987 the chef of the century, Paul Bocuse, masterminded the Bocuse d’Or – a revolutionary cooking competition. Like major worldwide events the Olympics, Eurovision and many more, it is open to countries across the world who compete for the title.

The basic premise of the competition is this:

  • 24 promising chefs
  • Five hours, 35 minutes
  • Huge audience
  • Renowned judges
  • Every two years

This completion features the best of the best of up and coming chefs, showcasing their talent (in what I can only describe as art on a plate), to represent their nation.

As I’ve mentioned a fair few times (in previous posts) I turned 18 in March and among some of my amazing gifts was pretty much the encyclopaedia of Paul Bocuse (if you want to look into it its “The Complete Bocuse”). I think the main reason my mum bought it for me is because she knew he was someone I was interested in and wanted to learn more about – and as a chef, it’s probably a good idea to know a bit about the chef of the century.

Skip to three months down the line, where I am about a post on how I’ve been helping out with that very competition! Mad!

So for the last week or so I’ve been helping out Team GB before they go off to the Bocuse d’Or Europe in Italy. I’ve been doing little jobs here and there, prep work and assisting in general and getting things ready for their practice runs.

This year representing the UK is Tom Phillips with his commis chef Nathan Lane – an ex-UCB student! While the food being created in that kitchen is basically state secrets, I can tell you it’s amazing, and there has been so much hard work from so many people to get the team in the best possible shape for the competition.

I have learned so much this week – partly from my own experience and partly from watching the chef’s when possible.

So, from my own experience I’ve learnt a lot about precision (like, A LOT), I have never seen or had to complete tasks to such an intense high level before. Basic preparation jobs have to be completed in adequate time to a high standard which can be quite daunting in front of such prestigious chefs.

Also getting used to working in such a high intensity environment makes me feel as if I could cope in any kitchen. There is so much anticipation and pressure when so close to such a huge event. I’ve also learned a lot about professionalism and how it aids a situation like this. At the end of the day, I went into this with the attitude that it’s about them, not me. This is one of the most important days of their careers and if it were the other way round and I had students helping out I’d want reliable, helpful and competent students helping me – so that’s what I tried my best to do.

From watching the competitors, the number one thing that screams out at me is their dedication. The hours and hours of work that have gone into the preparation for this competition is immense. I’ve definitely got a better idea of what it takes to get to a world class level. Detail is a huge element of what I’ve seen, the amount of research and thought into each element of each dish, the way they are presented and taste is amazing. The detail on each element is also taken to a new level. On top of that, the amount of behind the scenes work that goes into those final dishes is insane, from suppliers, to advisors, mentors, college staff and students like me, a lot of people have put time and effort into this event to ensure Team GB succeed.

So, I can’t share anything about the food, obviously, but I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed for Team GB and wish them all the best and good luck!




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