Take that, France: US chefs won the Olympics of cooking for the first time ever

Culinary competition.
Culinary competition.
Image: Reuters/Emmanuel Foudrot
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If you’ve ever watched the numerous cooking competitions hosted on the Food Network—Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Cons vs. Cooks—you probably believe you’re on top of the crème de la crème of cuisine face-offs. For those who really know food, however, there’s only one real contest and that’s the Bocuse d’Or. For the first time in its 30-year history, the Americans have won it.

The two chefs leading Team USA, Thomas Keller and Matthew Peters, both of the renowned New York City restaurant, Per Se, took a year off work to prepare for the competition. They led a team of 10 chefs. Norway snagged a silver medal and Iceland claimed the bronze.

The 24 competing teams were tasked with preparing a meat platter and a vegan dish in under six hours. The competition took place in a large hall in Lyon, France, in which spectators cheered their respective teams. An estimated 300 Americans showed up to support their national team—nearly all of them commercial sponsors, according to a report by The New York Times (paywall). Unlike many teams in the competition, the US team isn’t funded by the government.

“I don’t think our government knows who we are,” Keller told the Times.

The judges awarded points for each dish and for overall cuisine to determine a winner. The top five teams were the US, Norway, Iceland, Hungary, and France.

The win was a particularly nice coup for Keller. It came after Per Se lost two of its four stars in a 2016 review by Pete Wells, The New York Times food critic. Keller issued an apology after the review was published, telling customers, “we are sorry we let you down.”

The deftness of his and Peters’ cooking styles and leadership during the competition manifested in a “Poulet de Bresse aux Écrevisses” dish that included chicken, mushroom sausage, and lobster sauce alongside fois gras and lobster tail. For the vegan dish, the American team prepared asparagus from California with cremini mushrooms, almonds, potatoes, and Meyer lemon confit, among other things. It was the first time in the competition’s history that a vegan dish was incorporated.

Unfortunately for anyone who has six hours to try and recreate these culinary masterpieces, the competition has not published the recipes.