The qualification format has seen changes over the years, with a restructured scheme ahead of the 2009 Bocuse d’Or. 24 countries compete in the world finals, having achieved entry through different means: The top 12 finalists of the Bocuse d’Or Europe qualify, from a pool of 20 nations; the top 4 finalists of Bocuse d’Or Asia qualify, from a pool of 12 nations; the top 3 finalists of the Copa Azteca Latin American competition qualify, from a pool of 12 nations. Furthermore, 3 entrants are selected from national application, as well as 2 wild card selections.
Each team consists of two chefs, one lead chef, and a commis/assistant chef who must be under 22 years of age at the time of the competition. The team has 5 hours and 35 minutes to prepare two elaborate presentations, a meat dish and a fish dish. Taking place in an open “culinary theatre”, fully equipped kitchens are lined up side by side, facing an area for the jury, members of the press and audiences, with spectator numbers limited to ca. 1,000 people. From the 2009 contest, a designated coach located on the outside of the kitchen area is permitted to communicate with the team. Also as of 2009, inspectors control equipment and products the backstage zone, as no vegetables may be pre-cut, although teams may pre-peel garlic, portion oil, salt, flour and other ingredients, and bring stocks made in advance.
The jury consists of 24 renowned chef judges who make their evaluations based on the level of perfection in the presentation, in terms of technical skill, cooking sophistication, creativity and visual beauty. The jury is divided into two groups of 12, each half to judge either the fish dish or the meat dish. The food’s quality determines two-thirds of the score, 40 points; presentation determines 20 points. In the event of a tie, another 20 points will be awarded based on factors such as organization, teamwork, cleanliness and lack of waste. Judges have included Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adrià, Wolfgang Puck, Eyvind Hellstrøm, Thomas Keller and past winners such as Fabrice Desvignes, Mathias Dahlgren and Léa Linster.
The Bocuse d’Or Trophies
The chef with the highest overall score is awarded the Bocuse d’Or trophy, a golden effigy of Paul Bocuse in his chef’s outfit, receiving the grand prize of €20,000. The Silver Bocuse medalist receives €15,000, and the Bronze Bocuse medalist receives €10,000. Additional prizes are awarded for the best fish and meat dishes, best national culinary identity, best apprentice and best posters.