Bocuse d’Or – unique atmosphere and family vibe

Dirk Wittau, the man with two chef's hats, is not only Catering and Events Manager at METRO, but also an established member of the team that organises the prestigious Bocuse d’Or cooking competition. How did that come about, what experience has he gathered along the way and why did one year at METRO turn into 18?

Dirk Wittau with contestants

Dirk Wittau constantly supports the contestants during the competion.

Dirk Wittau

What's it all about?

  • How Dirk Wittau, Catering and Events Manager at METRO, became part of the Bocuse d’Or team
  • Unique atmosphere of the Bocuse d’Or
  • How one year at METRO turned into 18

One man, two chef’s hats and a whole lot of responsibility. Dirk Wittau has been an important part of METRO for 18 years. In his role as Catering and Events Manager at METRO Campus Services GmbH, he and his four-strong team take care of the catering at all the company’s events. But every two years, the experienced chef swaps his everyday chef’s hat for his Bocuse d'Or hat. He has been involved in the prestigious cooking championships for a decade, and is now an established member of the technical jury. MPULSE spoke to Dirk about his fascinating experiences at the Bocuse d'Or and his many years of working at METRO.

MPULSE: Dirk, you have been supporting the Bocuse d’Or team for ten years now. What exactly are your responsibilities in connection with the competition?

Dirk: I assist the German team with the organisation of Bocuse d‘Or. That includes looking after the jury and the guest chefs, making sure the contestants have the right equipment, procuring supplies, directing, handling press activities and many other things. I even used to help set up the event venues, but the Event Location team has taken care of that this year, now that the competition has moved to the Palmengarten botanical gardens in Frankfurt. I am also a member of the technical jury and am responsible for ensuring that the ingredients and equipment used by the participants comply with the strict competition rules. This means that we check every single box of each contestant and examine the ingredients they bring with them to make sure nothing has been precooked or prepared in advance. We also make sure that all the contestants enter their cooking spaces at the same time and keep track of the time.

Wow… that sounds like a lot!

It is! The planning starts around two months before the event itself. In a competition like the Bocuse d’Or, organisation really is everything. Fortunately, METRO gives me time off for the event days, so that I can be there for the German team both at the national preliminaries and the European final, which takes place in Trondheim this year.

How did you come to be part of the team?

It was an accident. I met Patrick Jaros, current president of Bocuse d'Or Germany, at an event at the METRO Campus in Düsseldorf where I had the opportunity to cook with him. Afterwards he asked me if I could see myself helping out with the team for the cooking championships. And I said yes.

And now you’ve been doing it for ten years.

Exactly. It’s like that sometimes in the hospitality industry. People get on well and share the same passion, and new partnerships emerge. Patrick and I have become really good friends over the years.

 

What do you find particularly fascinating about the cooking competition?

Dirk: The family atmosphere. We are like a big family that gets together regularly and supports one another, helping to push each other forward. For me personally, it is important to show the rest of the team and the contestants that they can rely on us. Whatever they need, we’re ready. The chance to meet up again every two years is priceless, as are the contacts you make. It’s this feeling of togetherness that makes the Bocuse d'Or a unique and unforgettable experience.

And the atmosphere at the event?

Dirk: (laughs) Incredible… And loud – almost like being in a football stadium. The team managers even sit with the fans in the stands and raucously cheer on the contestants.

Impressions: Bocuse d´Or 2024 in Trondheim, Norway 

What would be your one stand-out moment from the past ten years of the Bocuse d’Or?

Dirk: In 2014, I stepped in at the last minute to present the competition from the chefs’ box, which is where the contestants prep their dishes, because the original presenter was unfortunately unable to do it. That was a bit hair-raising, of course, but a great experience.

At METRO, you are the hero in your own story

Dirk Wittau

When you’re not away on Bocuse d’Or business, you can usually be found on the METRO Campus in Düsseldorf, where you’ve been for 18 years now.

That’s right… and I originally only planned to stay for a year. But as with the Bocuse d’Or, I very quickly realised that METRO and I are a good fit. So I’ve been Catering and Events Manager for 18 years. My team and I handle the catering for all internal and external events and run our staff restaurant METROs Inn.

What kind of events, exactly?

Summer parties, press conferences, supervisory board meetings and suchlike. But we also handle larger events such as the Rolling Pin or the Gourmet Festival as special kitchen projects, from design and stand planning to on-site support and service.

Wow, you really are the man with two chef’s hats. And what do you like best about your work?

Quite simply, it’s never boring. We are constantly faced with new challenges and are always meeting new people. Our work here is really varied. We can express ourselves and essentially be the hero of our own stories. We also have a great team and support each other like a second family. I can rely on my colleagues 100 per cent and that is worth a lot to me.

 

Dirk Wittau

About ... Dirk Wittau

Dirk Wittau trained as a chef at the Holiday Inn in Düsseldorf between 1990 and 1993. He gained valuable experience there before continuing his career in various areas of the hospitality industry. He spent two years on a cruise ship, extended his skills at a cooking school in Thailand and worked for the German government in Berlin for a while. In 2005, he returned to his home city of Düsseldorf and joined the Catering and Events team at METRO Campus Services GmbH.

METRO supports the  Bocuse d’Or

This year, the Norwegian city of Trondheim is hosting the Bocuse d’Or Europe. Europe’s top chefs will line up against one another on 19 and 20 March to show off their skills. The winner goes through to the world finals next year in Lyon, the epicentre of culinary art. METRO France is continuing its long-standing partnership as the main sponsor and supplier of the ingredients for the world finals. The collaboration between METRO France and the Bocuse d’Or dates back to 2005, when the company became the sponsor of the competition in its homeland.

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