America Just Won The Olympics Of Food — But What The Heck Is That?

Photo: Jean-Phillippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images.
On Wednesday, a team of American chefs won the coveted first-place spot in the Bocuse d'Or cooking competition. But before we started chanting "USA! USA!" in celebration, we had to pause and wonder, what the heck is the Bocuse d'Or?

Described on its own website as "the most prestigious cooking competition in the world," the Bocuse d'Or is frequently compared to the Olympics. Like it's athletic counterpart, it consists of teams competing as countries on a semi-yearly basis. And, just like Olympians, the competitors train full-time. According to The New York Times, The American team was headed by two young chefs who each took a full year off of work to prepare.

Unlike the Olympics, however, the Bocuse D'Or doesn't trace its roots back to Ancient Greece. The French culinary competition has only been around since 1987. Named for its founder, Paul Bucose, the day-long competition consists of the teams creating two themed dishes. And 30 minutes meals it's not: they have five hours and thirty five minutes to execute just one of the recipes.

For its thirtieth anniversary, the two dishes at the finale were a chicken and crayfish dish to celebrate the contest's home city of Lyon, and a first for the Bocuse: a vegan dish. The American team made a meal combining an array of vegetables, including asparagus and mushrooms, and a almond and vegetable yeast product that was meant to taste like Parmesan cheese.

While this is the first time the U.S. has nabbed the top spot, they have been on the podium before. In 2015, America earned the silver medal. It will stand to be seen if this year's prize will elevate the Bocuse d'Or in American minds. The New York Times notes that most teams are sponsored by their home governments, whereas Team U.S.A. is sponsored only with private dollars.
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