I’ve had the privilege of heading over to the Culinary Institute of America‘s special intimate chefs panel discussing the iconic person behind nouvelle cuisine Chef Paul Bocuse at The New York Mariott Marquis hotel, this past Wednesday, as he was awarded Chef of the Century. This panel featured Chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and his son Jerome Bocuse discussing how Paul influenced their choice to be a chef as well as how the restaurant industry changed because of him.
This hour-long panel was casual and lighthearted, especially with a sprinkling of Paul’s funny, witty French remarks about nouvelle cuisine (jokingly saying “Nothing on the plate but everything on the bill.” and “There’s only one cuisine – the good one.”) or general aspects of his life. As the panel went along discussing Bocuse’s accomplishments, the most memorable of his long career was earning the MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) in 1961.
Boulud was influenced by Paul because he’s grown up in Lyon, not too far from Paul Bocuse’s town. He admired Paul’s personable personality and fraternal love to his close friends and cooks despite of his busy schedule traveling the globe to expand modern French cuisine; learning the craft through a focused lens, and as well as a great motivator and innovator of ideas. Boulud received the CIA Award for Chef of the Year later that evening.
Keller, who recently received the Chevalier Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur from the French government, wanted Paul Bocuse to present him that honor. He admired Bocuse for changing the way the kitchen was organized from a kitchen full of cooks to make one dish to the organized, brigade system that almost all fine dining restaurants that we’re familiar with today. He loved the fact that Bocuse focused on the ingredients and that one must know the craft in order to cook well, so a chef can put his own interpretation once the skills are mastered.
During the Q&A session, someone asked if there are any concerns for future generation of chefs? The two concerns he mentioned are the fact that technology in the kitchen makes the cooks lose their sense of feeling (he started with ovens without thermometers but now with sous-vide immersion circulators one can control every half degree) that perhaps we’re depending on it too much that you lose the instinct or touch. The other was the idea of the “celebrity chef” in which chefs (or even more general, people) mistake fame for accomplishment.
Once that discussion was over, the small group of us was escorted downstairs to view and speak to Duff Goldman, which most Americans who remember him as the star from The Food Network reality show, Ace of Cakes. He baked the “Auggie”* cake for the Leadership Awards Gala taken place later on that evening. The cake is flavored of cardamom, pistachio and carrot (the base and the toque). Everything else is made from a wooden structure with modeling chocolate and is about five feet tall. According to Duff, this particular cake should serve approximately 150 guests but they do have eight sheet cakes to feed more people.
*The name for the CIA award, Auggie is a named after the legendary chef Auguste Escoffier.
For more photos of this event, please see the slideshow below:
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