WASHINGTON – Japan’s Noriyuki Hamada captured the bronze medal Wednesday in the Bocuse d’Or, becoming only the second non-European to reach the podium in the 26-year history of the world’s most prestigious culinary competition.
The gold medal went to Thibaut Ruggeri of France and the silver to Jeppe Foldager of Denmark.
Hamada is the executive chef at Bleston Court Yukawatan, a French restaurant in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.
He prepared a dish of flounder fillet with sliced shiitake and a dish of salt-crusted beef for the competition in Lyon, France. He added Japanese flavor to his dishes, including “yuzu” citrus-flavored sauce for lobster mousse.
Hamada, a native of Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, received the highest mark among the competitors for his fish dish.
Teams were asked to evoke the cuisine of their own countries.
“I’m pleased to come in third place, but I’m more happy about my own French dishes being approved by the world,” said Hamada, who added he has struggled to prepare dishes with a Japanese touch.
“Winning a medal is not the goal but rather the first step in introducing French cuisine that is possible only in Japan,” he said.
The competition, founded by famed French chef Paul Bocuse, a Lyon native, featured two-person teams working in identical kitchens for 5½ hours before an enthusiastic, and noisy, live audience.
This year contestants were challenged to produce an elaborate meat platter using Irish beef and 14 fish plates featuring turbot and European blue lobster.
For the first time, the contest tested the chefs’ creativity by requiring them to improvise side dishes from ingredients they shopped for in a special Bocuse d’Or market the night before the competition.
Ruggeri, sous chef at Lenotre Paris, became the seventh French gold medalist at the competition, which is judged by renowned chefs from participating countries.
Foldager, sous chef at Copenhagen’s Sollerod Kro, captured Denmark’s fifth medal.
American hopes had been high for chef Richard Rosendale and assistant chef Corey Siegel from the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, but they placed seventh out of 24 countries.
Once again, female chefs were largely absent from the Bocuse d’Or, except in the roles of assistants. Estonia’s Heidy Pinnak was the only woman competing as a primary chef. The only woman ever to reach the podium was Lea Linster, who captured gold for Luxembourg in 1989.