The Bocuse d’Or (the Concours mondial de la cuisine, World Cooking Contest) is a biennial world chef championship. Named for the chef Paul Bocuse, the event takes place during two days near the end of January in Lyon, France at the SIRHA International Hotel, Catering and Food Trade Exhibition, and is one of the world’s most prestigious cooking competitions.
The event is frequently referred to as the culinary equivalent of the Olympic Games, though the International Exhibition of Culinary Art in Germany is more officially titled the Culinary Olympics and is separated by an olympiad, i.e. a period of four years.
Based on an event first arranged in 1983, when the Salon des Métiers de Bouche (Culinary Sector Exhibition and Trade Fair, later renamed Salon international de la restauration de l’hôtellerie et de l’alimentation, SIRHA) took place in Lyon as “an exhibition organised by professionals for professionals”. Paul Bocuse, appointed Honorary President of the exhibition, conceived the idea of a culinary competition to take place during the exhibition, with preparation of all dishes taking place live in front of an audience. Several gastronomy contests were already in existence, however none of them presented a “live performance” and consequently one could not actually see the work performed in the kitchens of the chefs’ restaurants.
The initial Bocuse d’Or took place in January 1987. The SIRHA, having grown to become one of the biggest and most sophisticated food and culinary arts fairs in the world, also arranges other contests of culinary skill, including the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (World Pastry Cup) and in recent years Mondial du Pain (World of Bread Contest).
The audience atmosphere of the Bocuse d’Or evolved in 1997 when the support for the Mexican candidate included a mariachi band, foghorns, cowbells, cheering and yelling from the stands, marking the beginning of a tradition of noisy spectator presence. At first, the reigning champion nation was not permitted to participate in the following contest, but that rule was removed after the 1999 event when France was competing and did not win gold for the first time.
France, the invariable home team, has won gold on six occasions, while Belgium, Norway and Sweden have consistently finished in one of the top three placements. Léa Linster of Luxembourg became the first woman to win in 1989, and Rasmus Kofoed of Denmark became the first multiple medalist with bronze and silver in 2005 and 2007, and the eventual gold medal in 2011. The U.S. team never placed higher than sixth as in 2003 and 2009, while the highest ranking of a North American chef was the fourth-place result of Canadian Robert Sulatycky in 1999.
The 2007 Bocuse d’Or was featured in the documentary film, El Pollo, el Pez, y el Cangrejo Real. The U.S. effort leading up to the 2009 Bocuse d’Or is the subject of the book Knives at Dawn.
The U.S. won second place in 2015 when Philip Tessier and Skylar Stover made history by becoming both the first Americans to mount the podium as well as the first non-European team to win silver. Coached by Gavin Kaysen, Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse and Daniel Boulud, this was an extraordinary milestone for a country that had competed every year since the competitions inception in 1987. In 2017, Team USA took out the coveted gold trophy.