Bocuse d'Or is one of the most esteemed culinary competitions in the world... and now participants must create a vegan dish

Bocuse d’Or, or the World Cooking Contest, is a biennial international chef championship, which has been compared to the Olympics of the culinary world with a little bit of Eurovision-style competition chucked into the mix. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, in January 2017 it celebrates its 30th anniversary. The icing on the cake? For the first time in its history, chefs are required to prepare a “100-percent vegetal” dish, along with the more traditional chicken and shellfish dishes. That’s right – it must be entirely vegan.

About Bocuse d'Or

Bocuse d’Or was the idea of the award-winning French chef Paul Bocuse, renowned for his high quality and innovative approaches which can be sampled at his Michelin star restaurants. He has experienced his fair share of fame, such as when he cooked for presidential dinners or won the Chef of the Century award from The Culinary Institute of America in 2011. Given the esteem in which he is held, it is hardly surprising that the Bocuse d’Or competition in France is held in such high prestige in the culinary world. The first event took place in January 1987 and has taken place every other year since, different from other contests in that chefs prepare all dishes live in front of their audience.

The eccentric Paul Bocuse isn't renowned for his vegan-friendly cooking, but the introduction of an all vegan dish in this year's competition signals a change in the tide.

The eccentric Paul Bocuse isn't renowned for his vegan-friendly cooking, but the introduction of an all vegan dish in this year's competition signals a change in the tide.

Perhaps you’re sat there thinking of that particular vegan dish that you manage to produce outstandingly well and you’re now contemplating stepping up to the plate and trying your chances at Bocuse d’Or.

Well, unfortunately the competition is extremely high. Throughout the year, hopefuls from across the world partake in national selection events. Winners enter the continental stage and only those who come out top here make it to represent one of the 24 successful countries in the finals, a set number coming from each continent. The winning team of the final 24 entrants earn themselves a golden effigy of Paul Bocuse along with €20,000; second-place win a silver effigy and €15,000; third place, you guessed it, get a bronze effigy and €10,000.

Of the previous 15 competitions, the host country France has won 7 times, with Norway having taken it 5 times including 2015 and Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark having bagged it once each. This year’s finalists are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary (don’t make a pun), Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, USA, Japan and Morocco.

The vegan dish at Bocuse d'Or

Now, back to the plant-based dish. This must be made up of fruit, vegetables, legumes, seeds or cereals and must not contain meat, butter, cheese, cream or any other animal-derived products. Contestants have one month to come up with their recipe, which may be hot or cold or in the form of a broth, based on 146 products available from the Metro Market along with the option of 2 products from their country of origin.

The reason for choosing this theme was to acknowledge and appreciate the culinary trends of 2016, primarily the increasing demand for plant-based food. “In keeping with its passionate and attentive quest to reflect modern cooking in line with its times”, claim the organization, “Bocuse d’Or places the emphasis on vegetal”.

According to Régis Marcon, President of the Bocuse d’Or International Organizing Committee, “cooking can only be beautiful when it brings us closer to nature”, thus presumably veganism has been recognised as an appropriate way to achieve this.

When is Bocuse d'Or?

The event will be taking place in Lyon on January 24th and 25th 2017. Though meat and fish will still be used in the competition, the introduction of a vegan dish, whether this is as a one-off or to be repeated, is a huge step to celebrate. Yet more proof that plant-based food is anything but boring. If you want to learn more about Bocuse d'Or, check out the website here.