Turin Stages Bocuse d’Or Europe in Italy

This year, Turin in Piemonte, hosted the Bocuse d’Or Europe final with 20 different countries competing to get through to the grand final in Lyon.

Turin

Turin

Oval Exterior

Oval Exterior

Judges

Judges

Jerome Bocuse

Jerome Bocuse

Cheering Crowds

Cheering Crowds

British Supporters

British Supporters

norway plate

Norway Plate

norway platter

Norway Platter

Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

Winners

Winners

In January 1987, celebrated French chef, Paul Bocuse created the Bocuse d’Or, a revolutionary gastronomy contest. His idea was to bring together 24 young chefs from all over the world, and have them prepare superb dishes, in less than six hours, in front of an enthusiastic audience.

A jury, composed of the most illustrious chefs of the planet, awards them points and the winner gains the title of Bocuse d’Or. Many talented chefs have made a name for themselves thanks to the contest. Unfortunately Paul Bocuse passed away in January at the age of 91, but the contest carries on, a part of his culinary legacy.

The competition has now expanded, with heats in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe, before the grand final in Lyon, France. After being held in Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden and Hungary, this year Turin hosts the European section. Piemonte gastronomy is justly world famous, with its emphasis on fresh and local ingredients, not to mention its excellent wines, so it’s fitting that this is the first venue for the competition in Southern Europe.

The event takes place in the Oval Lingotto Fiere, built next to the former Fiat Factory, as a skating venue for the 2006 winter Olympics. It’s easily accessible by Metro from the city centre and the space works well for both the cooks and the audience.

The 20 young chefs have qualified by winning their national heats and, helped by their commis and coach, they have just 5 hours 35 minutes to prepare their best dishes in front of an enthusiastic audience. Jerome Bocuse, son of Paul, President of the Bocuse d’Or, presides over the proceedings and two separate juries contribute to the overall marking.

The Kitchen Jury assesses the contestants’ work during preparation, marking for hygiene and methodology with extra points reserved for optimisation of waste. The Tasting Jury, composed of the presidents of the participating teams, awards marks for the final taste, the presentation, and for respect of the products.

This year, for the first time, the contestants have to prepare a dish using Castelmagno cheese PDO and eggs plus at least one of the products from the Slow Food Presidium – Alberga Violet Asparagus, Caraglio Heirloom Garlic, Garbagna Bella Cherry, Altino Sweet Pepper, Neapolitan Ancient Tomato Varieties, Heritage Vesuvian Apricot Varieties, Salina Cape and Paglina Onion from Castrofilippo.

It’s also compulsory to use a male pedigree beef fillet of Fassona Piemontese plus calf sweetbreads with PDO Baraggia Biellese and Vercellese Rice. There is also a surprise ingredient, only revealed the night before the contest, which this year is Barilla spaghetti.

Over two days I watch the teams cooking, ten chefs per day. It has a bit of football atmosphere as the audience is composed of supporters from the different countries, all making noise and banging drums. Britain even brings a brass section to cheer on their team.

The whole event has a staggered start so the second chef starts 30 minutes later than the first and the others follow. It means that the jury has a marathon tasting, lasting most of the day, with dishes plonked in front of them every few minutes. How they manage to keep their appetite is a mystery but they all seem to take their task very seriously.

At the end of the second day, everybody gathers to hear the results, after all only 10 chefs will go through to the final in Lyon. Ironically for an event happening in Southern Europe the winners are all from Scandinavia – Christian André Pettersen, 28 years old, from Restaurant Mondo in Norway takes the gold, Sweden the silver and Denmark the bronze. Tom Phillips, from London’s Restaurant Story, buoyed on by his noisy supporters came a creditable tenth.

During my time in Turin, I wander the streets, seeking out artisan producers of pasta, chocolate, gelato and coffee and am not disappointed. I’m particularly impressed by the size and quality of the Porta Palazzo market, Europe’s largest, with separate food halls for meat and fish. And don’t forget to have an Aperitivo in the city where Martini was invented – as well as your cocktail, there are always copious snacks to accompany it.

Bocuse d’Or has information about the competition.

Hotel Concord makes a good base in the centre.

Torino has information about the city.

Visit Piemonte has information about the region.

British Airways flies direct to Turin from London Gatwick.

The Gatwick Express is the fastest way to the airport from central London.

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