East vs. West: Will Asian Chefs Place in France's Prestigious Cooking Competition?

>The Bocuse d'Or—the world's most prestigious cooking competition—is a bit like the Olympics and an episode of Iron Chef rolled into one. "It's life-consuming," chef Ryan Stone recently told The Canadian Press. It has also been dominated by chefs from Europe: Since the biennial event was founded in 1987, only one outsider has ever been among the top three finishers. But The Wall Street Journal reports that this year, Asian chefs are bringing their A game—a reflection of the Asian fine-dining boom as a whole:

Of the 12 past winners of the Bocuse d'Or, six were from France, four from Norway, and one each from Sweden and Luxembourg. Only once has a chef from outside Europe penetrated the top three positions in the competition--William Wai of Singapore took home bronze in 1989.

But this year, there is some hope that a chef from Asia could make an even bigger impact.

"The trend of the world is looking towards Asia," says Bocuse d'Or director Florent Supplisson. "More than anything we want to see what comes out of our Asian contestants."

Asia's fine-dining scene has taken off sharply in recent times as a rising class of wealthy consumers attracts a slew of world-famous chefs to the region. Celebrity chefs Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire and Daniel Boulud have opened restaurants in Asia within the past few years.

Since 2008, the Michelin Guide, the self-styled arbiter of fine-dining excellence, has launched city guidebooks for Tokyo, Kyoto, Hong Kong and Macau.

Tokyo now has 11 three-star Michelin restaurants, more than any other city in the world (Paris has 10). To win a Bocuse d'Or might just be the icing on the cake of Asia's growing culinary maturity.

"In the future, there is no doubt someday Asia will place on top [in the Bocuse d'Or]," says Stefan Stiller, president of the Chinese team. Four teams carry the flag for Asia this time around. Their journey to Lyon began last March.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.

Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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