The biannual Bocuse d'Or culinary competition in Lyon, France, ended on a familiar note Wednesday: A chef from Norway won again. It was a disappointment for U.S. contestant Timothy Hollingsworth, who placed sixth.
Geir Skeie, a 28-year-old chef at Midtaasen restaurant in Sandefjord, Norway, received the golden Bocuse d'Or statue -- made in the likeness of the contest's founder, legendary chef Paul Bocuse -- and about $26,000.
"This has been my dream for 15 years, since I was 13 years old," Skeie said. "You can hardly imagine how I feel -- it has been my best day ever."
Sweden's Jonas Lundgren earned silver and Philippe Mille of France took bronze. Contestants from either Norway or France have won in 10 of the 12 competitions, which have taken place since 1987.
"When I look at [my] platters, I see a lot of faults," said Hollingsworth, a 28-year-old sous chef at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and the subject of a Times profile on Monday. "There's always room for improvement."
During the two-day contest, chefs from 24 countries competed before of an audience of screaming fans wielding horns, cowbells, clackers and pompoms. Each chef had five hours and 35 minutes to prepare two elaborate platters -- one with seafood and one with beef.
Hollingsworth's beef platter had bacon-wrapped rib-eye; a tart of beef fillet with celeriac, Perigord truffles and endive marmalade; braised beef cheeks with turnips and carrots from the French Laundry garden; and bresaola, a dried and salted beef, smoked a la minute with apples, savoy cabbage and horseradish mousse.
On his seafood platter was confit of cod wrapped in scallop mousse; shrimp and avocado tarts with fennel compote; lemon oil custard with shrimp consomme and grapefruit; and layered potatoes and bacon.
Two of America's best chefs, Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller, had supported the U.S. competitor, setting up a training kitchen at Keller's French Laundry, providing a paid sabbatical and a coach, and raising about $500,000 in sponsorships to send Hollingsworth and assistant Adina Guest to Lyon.
Bocuse, the patriarch of nouvelle cuisine, had his hopes pinned on the American and Japanese contestants, hoping to attract more recognition and better competitors, from the United States and Asia.
But Americans still have to play catch-up. Skeie said he trained for two years and did 35 practice runs. Hollingsworth was enlisted to compete last summer.
Hollingsworth said he was looking forward to returning to the French Laundry.
"It was more of a personal challenge for me to try it once. . . . The past six months of my life has been a blur and it's going to take awhile to digest what has happened."