In 1987, a French culinary legend – famous for perfecting the art of nouvelle cuisine and the proud bearer of 3 Michelin stars – had an idea. He wanted to establish an international cooking competition that would combine discipline, know-how and quality. It was to be flamboyant, vibrant and modern – a festive event to be held live in front of an audience and a jury. The celebrated chef behind this idea was Paul Bocuse.
As honorary president of the Sirha culinary trade fair, he used the event to bring his concept to life. At the first Bocuse d’Or competition in 1987 in Lyon, 20 chefs from different countries competed against one another. Their task was to prepare one meat dish and one fish dish in an open kitchen – judged by an international jury of top chefs from around the world. Since then, the Bocuse d’Or has taken place every 2 years.
The path to the gastronomy Olympics
The Bocuse d’Or has continuously evolved throughout its history of over 30 years. In 1997, fans of the Mexican contestant cheered on their favourite with fog horns, cowbells, cheers and cries – ably assisted by a traditional Mariachi band. Since then, an uproarious audience has become the trademark of the Bocuse d’Or, which explains why it is often referred to as the Olympic Games of the kitchen. Lyon remains the setting of the grand international final. Since 2008, qualifying rounds have been held on different continents: the Bocuse d'Or USA in Epcot, the Bocuse d'Or Asia in Shanghai and the Bocuse d'Or Europe in the Norwegian city of Stavanger. To reach the continental semi-finals, contestants must progress through a series of national rounds. The many ambitious chefs who wish to compete must apply in the traditional manner with a covering letter and CV detailing the key stages of their careers.
It is no coincidence that the world’s most important prize in haute cuisine is held in Lyon. The southern French city and its surroundings are a mecca for the gourmet hospitality industry. The Rhône-Alpes region also boasts the highest density of gourmet restaurants in France.
24 top chefs in the 2021 final
The prize is now recognised as the most famous competition in the industry sector and attracts the world’s finest chefs who put their skills on show. The 18th Grand Final takes place at the end of September 2021 – as always, at the Sirha trade fair, which is now also one of the leading events in the food service and hospitality sector. Participants from 24 countries will compete here for the coveted trophy. The candidates are supported by a young assistant, the commis de cuisine, who must not be older than 22 years of age, plus a coach. The jury’s assessment criteria include presentation, flavour, work methods and the originality of the dishes. Points are awarded that ultimately lead to victory in gold, silver and bronze.
Inspiration for the hospitality industry
However, this culinary showdown is not just about honouring the most talented chef. It also aims to inspire the industry sector and highlight the latest trends. For this reason, the 2021 event incorporates another new twist: in addition to preparing the traditional platter dish – with beef chuck as the main ingredient – the candidates must also create a takeaway meal. This meal must include a starter, main course and dessert – focusing on tomatoes as the seasonal product. A composition with a black tiger shrimp is to be created for the main dish. Apart from being one of the main sponsors of the event, METRO France is also supplying the cherry tomato and black tiger shrimp as ingredients for the takeaway theme competition. The trick: participants must develop a reusable box themselves made of plant-based materials in which to package their creation-to-go sustainably. In this way, the Bocuse d’Or is paying tribute to the growth of the takeaway business during the coronavirus pandemic. It is also meeting calls from the hospitality industry and guests for more sustainability – a new and exciting challenge for the top chefs on the path to the gastronomy Olympics.
METRO France’s involvement in Bocuse d’Or final 2021
For the newly introduced ‘take-away’ theme, METRO France will exclusively supply 2 ingredients: cherry tomato and shrimp. Candidates are invited to create a take-away menu consisting of a starter-main course-dessert and a box as a container. These choices reflect societal trends towards simplicity and mobility, without ever excluding creativity. Cherry tomato will be the dominant ingredient in the ‘take-away’ theme, from starter to dessert. The black tiger shrimp supplied by METRO France will be fully adapted to the convenience required by the take-away. METRO France’s long-standing partnership with Bocuse d’Or dates back to 2005 when it became the sponsor of the culinary contest in its homeland. METRO France has been one of the official ingredient suppliers for Bocuse d’Or world final since 2013. In addition, METRO France is one of key partners of the Bocuse d’Or French Academy.