Last week I got a breathless email from Shuna asking if I’d heard about it and was I going to write about it. She gave me the link to SF Eater saying that Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud were not simply supporting an effort to raise a culinary team to compete in the Bocuse d’Or, they were actively taking part in it.

I’ve written about culinary competitions and, at first enthralled by them, have been skeptical.  Often the food that’s so heavily practiced and worked over is never eaten. The food I’ve seen is not better than that in the best restaurants throughout the world. What really are we doing and why, and who are the chefs who work so hard to be in these events?

So when I got a press release with the announcement of a concerted effort to find a competitive American team, led by Boulud and Keller, and read about it in The Times, I was curious why these celebrated chefs, who have enough on their plate already, would involve themselves in this.  Obviously, when Bocuse, the original chef promoter, an icon, and uniformly revered in the profession, asks, you don’t say no.  He’s Bocuse.  He’s THE chef.  There is a single available response: “Oui, Chef!”

But when I read that Keller would be creating a training kitchen next to the French Laundry, something that goes beyond “Oui, Chef” obligations, I had to find out more.

“If I am going to do it then we should make a strong effort,” Keller said in an email. “Daniel and I are committed to recruiting the best young chef to compete in Lyon next year. To that end I have the opportunity to remodel my father's house into a R&D center for The French Laundry—think El Builli. Enodis, a global food service giant, has agreed to contribute all equipment and funds to do it. That makes it a win-win situation. The French Laundry gets its R&D kitchen and Team USA gets a place to practice. We have also engaged Roland Henin, my mentor, to be the coach—another positive and important part.

“It is good for the industry because it promotes interest in chefs and allows them more opportunities, working with Daniel Boulud, myself and Roland Henin at The French Laundry is fantastic. Imagine the excitement of being part of this—if we do it correctly it will set a foundation for years to come. It is all about promoting chefs and their craft.”

See, that’s why he’s Thomas Keller.  He’s taken an event one might be suspicious about, a task that might be attended to in a lackluster fashion, and turned it into an extraordinary prospect.  Eight teams will be selected to compete in September in Orlando.  Not only is this an opportunity to travel and compete (paid for by Bocuse d'Or USA), there are also substantial cash prizes for the top three teams.  The winning team then will have the opportunity to work, with full compensation, in a new kitchen adjacent to the French Laundry with some of the best chefs in the world for four months.  Four months.  So that's why Shuna was breathless.

Chefs interested in this opportunity must apply before June 30.  An application is at   

This is going to be good.

(If you haven't seen it, the new documentary, The Chicken, the Fish, and the King Crab, is a fascinating view of the actual competition.) 


29 Wonderful responses to “Promoting Chefs and Their Craft”

  • Zach Wilson

    this is usually shown on the food network, isn’t it? I can imagine that they’ll make a pretty big deal out of it if chefs of this caliber are coming to dance.

  • Claudia (the Original)

    I ALWAYS watch these competitions – the World Pastry and Baking competitions, the chocolate and ice sculpting, the Bocuse D’Or . . . these are some the really fascinating shows on FN. Top chefs at the top of their craft.

  • Bocuse d'Or USA

    Michael, thank you for the support of this exciting competiton. Christey, the semi-finalist competition in Orlando will be open to spectators; anyone who purchases a ticket to Epcot Center on September 26 or 27 will be able to watch the competitors prepare and present their dishes to the panel of chef judges. The event will launch the Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The weekend will culminate in a Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony on Saturday, September 27, when the winning team will be chosen to train and compete on behalf of the US. Tickets for the Gala Dinner will go on sale on August 11 through Disney and We hope to see you there!

  • Colin

    Although my chances may be slim I looked into the application and saw there needs to bea chef and a commis. The commis needs to be 22 or younger when the event in Lyon happens. Just curious if I read this correctly. I am having a hard time finding someone so young with some talent or this much passion for cooking in my area.

  • milo

    The application is kind of funny – since people entering have to be either 22 and under or 25 and older, it means anyone who is either 23 or 24 can’t enter at all. Odd.

  • Colin

    I do agree but I am still really excited at what this means for the culinary industry in the US.I thinks it awesome and what an opportunity for the winners.

  • Bocuse d'Or USA

    Hi Colin, If you are having trouble finding a commis, we encourage you to apply with only your own information submitted. If you are selected, the US Bocuse d’Or committee will help you find one after you submit an application. The goal of Bocuse d’Or USA is to find the best possible competitors, and the committee will help competitors to create teams if necessary.

  • Doodad

    Very cool. Go team. Wish I could watch. Will there be any TV coverage? Or later show after the fact?

  • Natalie Sztern

    Watching the Bocuse D’or is why i am grateful the food network exists. Very exciting and kudos to all those who endeavour to try out…i would imagine even a failure in making the team would be a great learning experience..

  • shuna fish lydon

    Thank you Michael,

    And I see you have the big guns commenting so I’ll keep it brief. Indeed. An amazing opportunity.

    Having just filled out and submitted the longest and largest application process of my career I can say that even filling out an application for such an opportunity is great experience.

    Thank you, also, for finding out more details from TK.

  • Gavin Kaysen

    As the last US chef to compete in this competition I can say first hand that it is the most exciting and difficult competition in the world, which is exactly why this foundation is being built for the United States. I am so proud to be apart of this and see it from the begining…I wish all chefs the best luck in the world, you have an oppurtunity of a lifetime!

  • jody

    Thank you so much for the info…very exciting indeed…hope you keep us posted on the happenings as they occur!

  • Scott

    I’ll take the contrarian view here. This is going to promote what chefs in this country?
    I don’t fault the competitors but to think this competition represents American chefs is a stretch. I think it furthers the snobbery in the industry. Look at the board, these chefs are so out of touch with 99% of the American people it’s almost laughable.

  • Brian

    Can’t wait! It’s wonderful that Boulud and Keller are intimately involved.
    I hope someone can post the broadcast date, time and channel as I would love to watch!

  • christey

    How very cool, thank you for the info, we are pass holders to WD parks, so we will be there. Thank you!

  • Annie's New York Eats

    It sounds great and I’m looking forward to watching.

    Just for laughs, though, I wish someone had thought of giving the opportunity of leadership to that great American chef, Bourdain.

    Not so much mastery. Much more snarky humor.

  • Natalie Sztern

    To all those young chefs out there..remember that if u do not try then you have zero chances, but if you make the attempt there is at least one chance… try and take the leap! Someone has to win the lottery so why not you?

  • Russ H

    Bocouse d’Or? So this is a competiton like Iron Chef?

    No problem! Just send send Flay, Batali, Morimoto, Cora, and Symon!

    I mean they are friggen’ Iron Chefs! I sure Keller & Boulud wont slow them down TOO much… 🙂

  • marie

    I think this is no Iron Chef or Top Chef.
    This is like the Olympics but for food and chefs.

  • shuna fish lydon


    Yes. This is not a joke or a made-for-tv “competition,” it is a truly incredible opportunity for anyone willing to take a leap, and as Natalie said, one who does not try has no chances of getting picked.

    Before TV there was cooking, and cooking competitions. They are not designed for every sort of cook, but for those who are trained and built like this, they are boot camp for technique!

  • luis

    Bob Del Grosso, I understand your journey. You chose to be down at the farm where every food is born. Animal or vegetable is all born at a farm. Even the wild game such as fish… becomes a serious decision for folks like me and others concerned with the well being of the planet and our animals.
    If I was the leader of my tribe and charged with the nuourishment and nutrion of my people. The decisions that trouble you would be a no brainer. But as I am not, nor want to be, the decision to keep or realease takes on different meanings…. My G, man.. we even caught and landed a fifty lb Tarpon right off our back porch…. Off he went to fight another day.. because we don’t really need to eat everything you know? On the whole it was a fifty fifty catch and realease fishing trip. The issue is not wether we can take an animal, sacrifice it and eat it…That has never been an issue in our minds. The issue is wether the animal we take is SUSTAINABLE animal, not endangered with a proper size/weight and meat content to be harvesteable and useful to us.

  • Shelley

    I’m watching some of the video footage on the Bocuse d’Or website and getting hungry.

    Did someone say this has been on the Food Network before? I’ve never seen it…

  • luis

    Scott, Exactly on point. Viewing the geometric shaped tiny food dishes reminds one of the ice skating competition in the olympics were everyone must do compulsory moves which are more science and math than actual fun skating.
    This is all about form, style and technique and does not resemble food as we normally enjoy it. But that’s how one judges skill and talent I suppose. Nothing wrong with it.
    As this is a one time contest I suppose it watches much as the olympics does…with everyone rooting for their country to win the competition. Add all the hoopla and personalities and charm surrounding any mega event and It sounds very exciting as you can see from the video. (Notice…highlights on proteins…never vegetables).

  • Scott

    When I read that the proteins selected for the competition were beef tenderloin and cod I knew it was about the presentation and technique more than anything else. Those skills only represent a small percentage of a real chef’s skills.
    No thank you.
    I also wonder about the motivation behind the hoopla. I’m a natural cynic but you got to wonder.

  • Claudia (the Original)

    I recall seeing a Bocuse D’Or competition a while back – believe it was on FN, but it’s been a while. Like the World Pastry competition, I don’t think it’s held every year. Believe me, it is FAR more prestigious than Iron Chef and will certainly raise both the craft and the profile of any chef selected to compete. Bocuse is not the Oscars, but the Olympics (Iron Chef, by comparison, is a game show, as fine as the chefs are), so, yes, Bocuse IS important. You can bet if it’s important enough for Keller and Boulud to commit vast amounts of time, effort and resources to it, it’s IMPORTANT. Besides, it’s absolutely thrilling to watch some of the world’s finest chefs at the top of their game. For a foodie, it’s the Olympics and moon landing rolled into one. Watching the “nationals” (in which the American teams compete to be selected to go to the finals) is just as exciting. You know you’re looking at the next generation of top flight American chefs, even if only a handful win and go on to the Bocuse finals. I hope I’m remembering it correctly . . .

  • Christey

    Again, thank you for opening our eyes about this competition. We were able to attend the second day and the gala dinner, and it was just amazing! We are in the process of posting about the experience over at, so far we have 2 of the 4 posts it will take to cover it all.