As we return to normality our achievement in Lyon is beginning to sink in.
We arrived in Lyon on Sunday January 27th, in good time for the Bocuse d’Or briefing on Monday. This year for the first time, we had to choose our ingredients and plan our fish garnishes from scratch whilst we were out in Lyon. This was coordinated in a supermarket-sweep style challenge which involved the chefs splitting into two groups - 12 for day one and 12 for day two. Each team was given 30 minutes to select ingredients from a market created by sponsor, Metro. Obviously at this time of year seasonal ingredients are limited but even though we’d done our research there were a few surprises in terms of what was and wasn’t available.
In the end we settled for potatoes, leeks, celery, apple, beetroot, a selection of herbs
and pea shoots, to create garnishes of creamed leaks cannelloni rolled in Espelette butter and salad of pickled vegetables with mustard seeds, apple and celery puree.
The following day was spent in the Labo kitchen, kindly loaned to us by Benjamin Grellier. We ended up there for a good few hours, only getting to bed at 2.30am the morning of the competition.
So with three hours sleep we were on our way into the Bocuse d’Or kitchen. We entered the kitchen at 8.10am and started cooking at 9.10am. We started in near silence but this was soon broken by the notes of ‘Rule Britannia’ played out by the legendary England Band. Hearing this put a smile on our faces faces and with the help of the band our supporters dominated the audience - another first for team UK.
Obviously our focus was on the food but we could hear the stadium filling and by 11am the stadium was already electric, we could tell that our supporters were out in force. Knowing that there are so many people out there who’ve taken time out to cheer us on is a fantastic feeling, like the athletes in the Olympics it really does give you the extra boost.
The hours flew by and as the meat platter was served we felt happy with our performance and relieved that it had mostly gone to plan. Kristian was on fire - efficient, timely and tidy - the perfect commis. Having worked as a partnership for four months in the Bocuse d’Or kitchen at University College Birmingham, we were well rehearsed and this really paid off on the day. I’ve always said that the Bocuse d’Or is a team effort so it was particularly satisfying when Kristian was announced winner of the Best Commis prize. We were absolutely delighted!
Winning the Special Meat prize was just amazing as it meant that we’d secured a good position. That this position was fourth and only six points off the podium (to put this in context Team France secured gold with 1687 points we received 1598). Coming so close to the podium is bittersweet but it’s the best result ever for the UK and gives us the belief that we’ll do it one day!
The team also extends beyond those collecting the awards, by allowing us time off work and helping us with our planning, Andreas has been integral to our success. Luke and the team at Simpsons carried on without us over the busy Christmas period. Previous candidates, John Williams and Simon Hulstone, coach Nick Vadis and President Brian Turner have all been on hand to provide advice and feedback.
Then there’s the staff and students at University College Birmingham, who made us feel very welcome over the past year! The purpose built kitchen really helped us to get into the right mindset and having them out in the crowd made it even more special.
We’ve had fantastic support from our many sponsors and I will be thanking every one of them. I’d especially like to thank Heritage for creating the beautiful silverware which helped showcase our award winning meat platter, Aubrey Allen for the generous supply of beef, M and J Seafood for the generous supply of fish, Wellocks for all the vegetables, Ritter Courivaud for the dried goods and truffles, Nestle Professional for kitting out our supporters and the UCB for providing us with the training facility and organising the fundraising dinner last November. I’d also like to thank Compass Group for its generous donation and for loaning us Nick and Jodi Hinds our official team photographer who has given up so much of her time to capture our work - all these photos are hers. I don’t want this to turn into an acceptance speech but my last blog post does list all of you!
We are made up with the result but it would be wrong to believe that the journey ends here.
We are proud and delighted to have achieved what we did but also mindful that we had the best foundation ever provided to a UK candidate. No one previously has been given the privilege of time off and a replica kitchen to practise in.
To me, proving that with the right resource we can get this far means that we can’t go back. It’s now time to make sure that the legacy of our success is passed on to secure Team UK’s place on the podium in 2015.