Toronto·Our Toronto

Canadian chefs gear up for Bocuse d'Or – the Olympics of the culinary world

A team of chefs in Toronto has been bustling around a kitchen at George Brown College in preparation for the most prestigious international culinary competition in the world — Bocuse d’Or.

The team will compete in a prestigious culinary competition on Jan. 29 and 30

Chefs Trevor Ritchie and Jenna Reich are part of the team of chefs representing Canada at Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France at the end of January. (Jonathan Castell/ CBC News)

Roasting, grilling, poaching — a team of chefs in Toronto has been bustling around a kitchen at George Brown College in preparation for the most prestigious international culinary competition in the world, Bocuse d'Or, also known to many as the Olympics of the culinary world.

And this Team Canada has their sights set on gold.

"We have a really strong team this year and we have big goals. We want to be the first Canadian team to ever be on the podium," says Chef Trevor Ritchie, who beat out some of the country's best chiefs to earn the right to represent Canada.

"It's a great honour for sure. As a proud Canadian chef it's something that I've been dreaming of competing in my whole career so I've been working on this competition for 17 years, always dreaming about representing Canada at the Bocuse d'Or so it means a lot," he says.

Marivel Taruc chats with chefs representing Team Canada at George Brown College. The team will go to Lyon, France to compete in a prestigious culinary competition. (Jonathan Castell/ CBC News)

As the Chef Technologist at George Brown College and a graduate of the school himself, Ritchie is no stranger to winning competitions but he says this time is different.

"We look at it as an international sporting event. You know if you're playing hockey on the ice with Wayne Gretzky you're not looking up at the stadium shaking everyone's hand — you're there for blood."

The road to the culinary Olympics isn't easy. Countries must first win regional events to make it to the finals. The team of chefs representing Canada took second place at their regional competition in Mexico last spring which landed them a spot at the finals in Lyon, France.

Though Team Canada has made it to the Bocuse d'Or finals in the past — no Canadian chef has ever won.

The team of chefs representing Canada took 2nd place at their regional competition in Mexico last spring. (Bocuse d'Or)

"These are 24 of the best chefs in the world all in one fight for the trophy … so it's very surreal, very exciting," says Jenna Reich, a recent George Brown graduate who is now headed to Lyon for the competition as part of the team.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity because of the magnitude of the competition and the fact that it only happens every two years and the candidate can be from anywhere in Canada," she says. "It was really right place at the right time, never something that I expected myself to do."

For Ritchie, getting to Bocuse d'Or has been something he's dreamed of for years.

"I remember being in classroom and not paying attention to the lecture and just thinking about the Bocuse d'Or all the time. I remember that very clearly. It's great to be here."

Team Canada will have five hours to prepare and serve dishes to judges at the final. They'll follow a strict set of rules and work in a stadium filled with thousands of fans.

Chef Trevor Ritchie is busy preparing for Bocuse D’Or -- also known to many as the Olympics of the culinary world. (Jonathan Castell/ CBC News)

"The Bocuse d'Or is about representing your country's cuisine and all of that prestige," says Ritchie. He adds that some of his former students help make up part of the team. "Another part of it is that we really want to promote the next generation of chefs."

So what will the team cook up for one of the biggest competitions in the world?

They won't say. The menu stays a highly-guarded secret until the team goes head-to-head with the other 23 countries for the trophy on Jan. 29 and 30. 

Watch Our Toronto Saturday and Sunday at noon, or Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC Television

With files from Marivel Taruc

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