On November 9, City Tech student, Mimi Chen, Department of Hospitality Management, and Chef Matthew Kirkley were selected to represent the United States as the 2019 Team USA in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyon, France. The competition, which takes place every two years, is held at the Sirha, a professional tradeshow dedicated to food service and gastronomy. Chen first met Kirkley when she assisted the 2017 Team USA in Lyon at the last Bocuse d’Or competition.
The Team USA competition, sponsored by the “ment’or” BKB Foundation and held at The Venetian, in Las Vegas, followed the Bocuse d’Or format in which chefs have five hours and 35 minutes to prepare and present a platter composition and a plated dish to a panel of 21 jurors. Chen and Kirkley spent three months this year—from August to November—in San Francisco at Kirkley’s three-star Michelin restaurant, COI, practicing for the Las Vegas competition.
“Mimi is competing among the best chefs in the world. As a young woman, she will have much to prove throughout her journey. Continuing her academic studies while training will surely be an additional challenge, but it is one Mimi is addressing with rigor and determination. We are proud of her accomplishments and look forward to seeing how much she will grow as she trains for her upcoming competitions and academic course work,” said Professor Karen Goodlad, CSW, Department of Hospitality, City Tech.
City Tech has produced a long list of hospitality industry professionals who have gone on to successful careers at major restaurants and hotels around the world including celebrity chef and author Michael Lomonaco, owner of Porter House New York; Feliberto Estevez, executive chef at Gracie Mansion; William Yosses, author and owner of Perfect Pie and the former pastry chef at the White House; Sherry Yard, author and owner of Helms Bakery District and former pastry chef at Spago Beverly Hills as well as Jay Stein who is the CEO of Hampshire Hotels and Resorts, to name just a few.
Next Chen and Kirkley will travel to Mexico City in April, 2018, to compete against 12 teams. Five of those teams will go on to the next step of the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, which brings together 24 young chefs from all over the world. Among the most promising talents of their generation, the competing chefs prepare dishes live before an audience. A jury composed of the most illustrious chefs of the world decides the winner.
“I am very proud of Matthew and Mimi for having the confidence and the courage to have participated in this competition. It takes great teamwork and collaboration to achieve this goal. It’s a monumental moment that signals the beginning of the Road to Lyon. They are here not only to represent the United States, but to defend our gold medal,” said Chef Thomas Keller, president of ment’or.
Beyond a mere cooking contest, the Bocuse d’Or is a show that receives extraordinary media coverage. Many talented chefs have made a name for themselves by winning the contest, like the winner of the Bocuse d’Or 2011, Danish chef Rasmus Kofoed – restaurant Geranium (Copenhagen) – who successively won the Bronze Bocuse, Silver Bocuse, and Gold Bocuse.
Upon graduation from the High School of Hospitality Management in Manhattan, Chen won a full-tuition scholarship from C-CAP (Careers Through Culinary Arts Program) to attend Manhattan’s International Culinary Center. Once she completed the six-month program, she enrolled at City Tech to earn a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. Chen also won the ment’or BKB Commis Competition in 2016, where she was awarded a month stage with Team USA 2017. The “month stage” provided her with the opportunity to assist the team with practice runs and to attend the competition in Lyon.
“I was there watching them during the competition in France and when they announced that Team USA was the winner,” said Chen. “It was such an incredible moment, being a part of the team and actually being there to witness it was so surreal. And I was determined that I would get on Team USA for the 2019 competition. Now I’m focusing on doing well in Mexico City and am grateful for all the support I’ve received from my professors at City Tech and, of course, Chef Kirkley.”
“Since 2007, when I first saw the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, I have dreamed of competing for my country on the world’s greatest culinary stage. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to do so. I look forward to the challenges ahead, and to work with the great group of people that make up Bocuse d’Or Team USA,” said Chef Kirkley.
About Bocuse d’Or: In January 1987, Paul Bocuse created the Bocuse d’Or, a revolutionary gastronomy contest. Replicating the codes of major sporting events, he imagined a true show placing the emphasis on cooking and on the chefs. Thirty years after its creation, faced with the increasing number of nations who want to take part in the prestigious contest, the Bocuse d’Or inaugurated in 2007 the concept of pre-selection events by introducing the continental events: Bocuse d’Or Europe, Bocuse d’Or Latin America and Bocuse d’Or Asia, that became Bocuse d’Or Asia-Pacific in 2014 and now includes Australia.
These events are the continental finals and aim to select the 24 countries that will reach the international final. The Bocuse d’Or now features nearly 60 national and continental contests over a two-year cycle, all leading to the culmination in the world final that is held in Lyon, France.
About BKB Foundation and ment’or: Since 1987, there has been United States representation at the Bocuse d’Or World Competition. In 2008, Chef Paul Bocuse asked Daniel Boulud to develop a structure to provide more support to the US team, particularly for the training period leading up to the global competition. Chef Boulud engaged Thomas Keller and Jérôme Bocuse to form the Board of Directors, of what is now the BKB (Boulud, Keller, Bocuse) Foundation.
In addition to supporting Team USA, the Foundation is committed to helping support young culinary careers through educational grants and opportunities. In 2014, ment’or was unveiled as the new name for The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation. ment’or remains dedicated to inspiring culinary excellence in young professionals and to help elevate and promote the fine culinary arts in America.