Predictable Bocuse

Last month I heard for the first time about the so-called 'Gastronomic Olympics', a biannual competition known as the Bocuse d'Or. Started in 1987 by the great French chef Paul Bocuse, the more I looked into it the more it seemed to be a commercial carve-up masquerading as a world-beating cookery challenge.

There are three stages, the first being to choose the chef who will represent his country. In the latest contest, Juan Manuel Salgado Domínguez, of Restaurant La Plassohla (Hotel Ohla, Barcelona) beat all other Spanish comers with two typical national dishes involving trout and roast lamb.

It is worth mentioning that Spanish competitors for this mega-cook-off have always complained about lack of support at national and regional level. While cooks from other countries get all their expenses covered, and in some cases even receive payment for taking part, Spanish contenders have to find their own sponsors and frequently have had trouble paying for the ingredients they use.

Salgado went on to the European phase in Budapest, where, in deference to the host country, the dishes to be judged were sturgeon with its caviar and red deer. Salgado was fortunate in finding a backer who paid for the caviar he used! The chef from the host country won (surprise!), and runners-up were Sweden, France, Singapore, Germany, China, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Norway, USA, Morocco and Iceland. Spain, as always, was nowhere.

At the final last month, held customarily in Bocuse's Lyon, the designated dish was Bresse chicken with shellfish, hardly the most imaginative gastronomic creation, but typical of the region and sponsored by the Bresse chicken producers' consortium. USA, Norway and Iceland got the prizes, in that order. Worth mentioning is that in the 15 versions of the Bocuse d'Or, Norway has won five times and France eight. Spain has never made the final. Perhaps with sponsors like Pommery, San Pellegrino, Wagyu, Dubouef, Laroche, Villeroy & Bosch, Renault and Nespresso etc, Spain is not exactly the country that the organisers want to see on the winner's podium.