Young Turks’ culinary challenge

Young Turks’ culinary challenge

Young Turks’ culinary challenge

AFP Photo

There was a new tweet almost every other second. It was hard to keep track and sometimes frustrating when a new tweet failed to appear for a minute or so.

I was following the tweets of Thomas Keller, the President of the American Team in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competitions, held in Lyon, France in January.

Thomas Keller is the chef and owner of a number of top restaurants, like the 3 Michelin-starred French Laundry and Per Se. Being one of the most-praised chefs in the U.S., he took the responsibility of mentoring the U.S. team and was tweeting like a fanatic fan from a soccer game. It was earlier in January when tweets started like a spring bird gently chirping peacefully now and then; followed by a more enthusiastic pace on Jan. 28 and 29 with 19-20 tweets per day; culminating in 86 tweets on the grand finale day in Lyon. Most included pictures of the parading platters presented to the jury; a few were re-tweets of related twitter addresses like “Bocuse d’Or USA.”

It was crazily exciting, with the audience cheering with flags like a national sport competition. The Bocuse d’Or is considered the Oscars of the culinary world; maybe more like Olympics, if you consider all the sport that goes into it. Unfortunately the U.S. team did not make it to the medals, remaining in 6th place. It was France who grabbed the Gold, taking their national pride back from the Vikings that swept all the medals the previous year.

Vikings of the Kitchen

The biennial Bocuse d’Or, founded by the great chef Paul Bocuse, has been held since 1987. France has been a proud winner of six previous golds, as well as two silvers and one bronze. Who I call the Vikings were last year’s winners, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Rasmus Kofoed, the dedicated Danish chef, is the greatest personal achiever in the history of the Bocuse, a score hard to surpass. In addition to his gold in 2011, he also won bronze in 2005 and silver in 2007. It is tough work. He has the stamina of an Olympic medalist in that sense, having given a good eight years of his life toiling in kitchens solely for this competition. He describes the whole procedure like being trapped in a prison and the only way out seemed to be achieving the gold. So he did it, finally, and this January he must be the one who thoroughly enjoyed his place on the other side of the table, this time as a member of the jury.

There is a long road to success. A total of 24 countries compete in the world finals, making way their way up the ladder through different means: the top 12 finalists of the Bocuse d’Or Europe qualify from a pool of 20 nations; the top four finalists of Bocuse d’Or Asia qualify from a pool of 12 nations and the top three finalists of the Copa Azteca Latin American competition qualify from a pool of 12 nations. Furthermore, three entrants are selected from national applications, as well as two wildcard selections.

There are four competitors for the Turkish finals who dared to take this road. Eight candidates were chosen from a number of written applications, then a final four were chosen to compete for the Turkish finals. The four chefs who made it to the finals were Erol Sarıdoğan, Gürcan Gülmez, Murat Çakıroğlu and Volkan Karataş. Turkish Bocuse d’Or finals will be held in Istanbul this Friday, March 9, as part of the SIRHA International Trade Show dedicated to the Catering, Hotel, Brasserie and Gastronomy Industry.

The chosen Turkish competitor will undergo 14 months of training before the European finals, to be held in Stockholm in 2014. In the course of preparing for the European finals, the Turkish team will be fully sponsored by Metro Cash & Carry group, as the supplier of all their ingredients. Chef Mehmet Gürs is taking the role of Thomas Keller as the president of Bocuse d’Or Turkey. He might be the only one to understand the miracle behind the Viking success, as he had a Scandinavian upbringing.

The Vikings were pioneers of their time, conquering faraway places. Their successors, the Nordic chefs, similarly conquered in the culinary world. Their courage, discipline and stamina won them several medals, eight in total for Norway, of which four are golds, five in total for Denmark, three of which belong to Rasmus Kofoed, and five in total for Sweden.

Could there be a chance for a Young Turk to win a Bocuse d’Or in the future?!

It is a long path, but the first step has already been taken.

One never knows; success starts with a dream. After all, Young Turks had a sort of similar courageous Viking spirit!

Bite of the week

Fork of the Week: There will be lots of tasty forks to taste at the SIRHA event this week. Pay a visit to Lütfi Kırdar, “Istanbul Kongre Merkezi,” between March 7 and 9 and you’ll be rewarded by quite a few tasty forks!

Cork of the Week: As there were new chefs to discover, there was one wine to be discovered in the Bocuse d’Or Turkish finals press dinner hosted by Metro Group at Mikla last week. The wines for the event were selected by Sabiha Apaydın, sommelier of Mikla. As always, her picks amaze me, and the delicious red from Gallipoli was a new discovery. Gali is rather new in the market, a small boutique winery with 24 hectares of vineyards planted with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Try to find Gali Evreshe, Doğan Arslan Gelibolu, Trakya 2010, wherever you can.