First step in a long road

First step in a long road

First step in a long road The Bocuse d’Or European selection held in Stockholm last week is over. Swedish chef Tommy Myllymäki won the gold. The world championship will be held in Lyon in January 2015. Some 20 countries were in fierce competition to secure their places to be among the lucky 12 going to Lyon, the hometown of the legendary chef Paul Bocuse. Other finalists will be joining from Asian-Pacific countries and the Americas.
Turkey was a first time competitor in the prestigious chef’s competition that was first held in 1987. Chef Gürcan Gülmez and his commis Okan Öztürk did their best, but were eliminated at 17th place. The consolation can be that Turkey was just behind other eliminated allies, Italy and Spain, two assertive countries in the competition, both famed with their celebrated cuisines that have won the hearts of the masses worldwide. The first three were Scandinavian countries, Sweden followed by Denmark and Norway, with France sneaking a shy 4h place. Other countries getting tickets for finals were, by order of points, Finland, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Estonia, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland.

It was remarkable of Turkey, to have a Muslim chef daring to deal with pork, the obligatory ingredient for the meat course for all competitors. He actually scored better in his meat dish compared to the fish course, which had saithe (or coalfish), a fish of the Nordic seas, and Belon oysters, both as alien as pork to the young chef. These ingredients were announced previously and the Turkish team had been training for long to overcome these obstacles. Metro Market, the main sponsor for the Turkish team provided saithe and oysters, freshly delivered to the exact replica of the competition kitchen built in Metro Gross Market Kağıthane store premises by Öztiryakiler industrial kitchen equipment company.

Owner Tahsin Öztiryaki, personally followed all of the stages of this marathon-like training period. He is also the president of TMD, Turkish Cuisine Association, one of the major sponsors of the national competition. Turkish Bocuse d’Or Academy was established within the frame of the TMD, which was responsible for organizing the national selections, and Mehmet Gürs, the director of the academy, represented Turkey as a jury member. The team was coached by Rudolf Van Nunen, corporate chef of The Marmara Hotel, with all the organization process meticulously followed by his assistant Tülay Saygılı.

The Metro Group, as the main sponsor, supported the team during the whole procedure. Metro director Kubilay Özerkan said, “We want this competition to inspire all young chefs in Turkey, to contribute to the future of Turkish cuisine.”

The arena in Stockholm was a joy to watch. The supporters of Turkey and Italy were the loudest, the slogan of the Turkish crowd was gentlemanly. When the Turkish plates kept appearing, they cheered repeatedly “Bon Appétit Jury!” One jury member was seen to stop tasting and take pictures of the cheerful gang. The president of the jury was Mathias Dahlgren, a chef for the two iconic restaurants in the Swedish capital, Matsalen and Matsaren, both situated at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. The panel of honorary judges also included Elena Arzak, restaurant Arzak, San Sebastian, as the President of the International Jury, and Björn Frantzén, restaurant Frantzén, Stockholm, as the President of Honor.

The overall list of winners and losers reveal an interesting fact. Countries previously not known for their cuisines have made great progress in the fine dining scene. Countries famed for their diverse rich culinary culture on the other hand, do not step out much when it comes to intricate chef’s plates. The Nordic Vikings have been training for years and years now, and as the winners of the past decade, show a consistent commitment. It can be said that discipline won over casualty. The chef’s scene in Europe is now obviously divided between the Nordic seas versus the Mediterranean, or the North-West beating down the South and the East. As I stated earlier in another article, the Vikings are back to conquer and invade, this time with forks and knives, to invade our palates and the hearts of all food lovers.

It is a tough road to success in Bocuse d’Or, even daring to take a step in this long marathon is great progress for the future of Turkish chefs. It was a bit unfair for our first timers to compete with so unfamiliar ingredients, but they kept their heads up and completed with dignified chivalry, so congrats to our team and all who contributed. Bon Appétit Jury! – Bon Appétit Turkish team!

Bite of the week

Fork of the Week: Rudolf van Nunen was recently behind the stage at another important competition for young Turkish chefs. The Ottoman Cuisine Competition, now in its fifth year was won by Taksim-The Marmara chef Tolga Özkaya and his team, again coached by Van Nunen. Their wining dishes will be available upon request at Tuti restaurant, which also serves superb street food inspired Istanbul tastes.