Those of you who watch Bravo’s Top Chef program saw Orlando resident Jerome Bocuse on this week’s episode. (If you missed the episode you have another chance to see it tonight when it’s rebroadcast at 7.) Bocuse, son of legendary chef Paul Bocuse, is head of operations for his father’s restaurant, Chefs de France, at Epcot.
Bocuse (pictured, right, with his father, center, and Daniel Boulud) appeared as a guest judge and to award the evening’s winner a special prize: a chance to compete in the USA finals of the prestigious Bocuse d’Or. The Bocuse d’Or is a biennial competition held in Lyons, France. Chefs from around the world converge to try to outcook each other for the gold medal. The next Bocuse d’Or is in 2011, but the US finals will be next year. Last year’s finals were part of the opening weekend festivities of Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. It was a multi-day competition with spectators in bleachers set up in the World Showplace. The culmination was a $450 per person gala dinner. (Here’s the story I wrote about that dinner.)
But those who listened carefully to the details of the Top Chef prize may have noticed that the US finals will not be returning to Epcot next year. Instead they will be held at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in February.
Why? Well, one of the reasons has to do with the date. After the US finals at Epcot last year, the winner had only a few months to train for the competition in Lyons; by moving the finals to February the winner will have a full year to prepare. That makes sense.
Still, it’s a shame to see the event leave Orlando. The folks at Disney did a terrific job with a competition of this scale. The entire weekend was a fantastic celebration, and it was a coup to have the culinary world focus on Orlando.
Here’s hoping they’ll find a way to bring it back.