Team Australia’s chef Michael Cole and commis chef Laura Skvor were placed 14th out of 24 countries in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or Grand Finale this week in Lyon, France.
Held at the SIRHA trade show in Lyon 29-30 January, the competition saw Kenneth Toft-Hansen from Denmark win the gold prize, while Sweden’s Sebastian Gibrand was awarded silver and Christian André Pettersen from Norway won bronze.
Cole and Skvor were accompanied to Lyon by President Tom Milligan, Vice President Philippe Mouchel and team coach Scott Pickett. Milligan also served on the Jury as a judge.
Co-Head Chef at The Flinders Hotel on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Cole began his journey on the ‘Road to Lyon’ by winning the Australian Selection competition at Foodservice Australia in May 2017. He then went on to qualify a year later at the Asia Pacific Selection in Guangzhou China, coming 4th out of 11 entrants. Since then he has been training intensively to create and refine his dishes.
As the first time the Bocuse d’Or Grand Finale has been held without its founder Paul Bocuse, the iconic ‘theme on a platter’ paid homage to the iconic French chef, requiring competitors to prepare one of his celebrated dishes, roasted rack of veal. The other course, or ‘theme on a plate’ was a chartreuse, similar to a terrine, made from shellfish and vegetables, in tribute to another chef sadly lost last year, Joël Robuchon. Both dishes had to be made from scratch at the competition in just five hours and 35 minutes.
“It has been very satisfying to see our progress as we look back over the 20 months, and realise just how much we have improved as chefs and professionals,” reflects Cole. “It takes a lot of endurance and stamina to train for this period of time; it’s a huge commitment and only possible with the support of our employer, family and loved ones.”
Laura Skvor, an apprentice chef, says her favourite aspect of participating in Bocuse d’Or was meeting the wide range of people involved. “I met chefs, producers, creators and innovators I would never have come across otherwise,” she says. “I think the community you develop during this experience is really what makes it so special.”
Michael Cole agrees. “It’s such a privilege to be selected to represent your country, it felt like a dream most of the time. The pressure is huge, because we want to do Australia proud and honour everyone who has helped us along the way”.
Bocuse d’Or Australia President Tom Milligan says he could not be more delighted. “Our team pulled together really well,” he says. “Michael and Laura really stepped up to the challenge and are a true credit to their country and the hospitality industry.
“Having Scott Pickett as Coach was invaluable, both he and I have competed before, so we understand the pressure. And with Scott relaunching one of his restaurants in a week, it was very generous of him to spend this time in France with us.”
The Australian team is grateful to its sponsors including Aquanas, Global Meats Australia, Imports of France, Telstra, OrderMate, Bone Roasters, Eustralis Food, IHS Global Alliance, Table Direct and Foodservice Australia, plus venues The Flinders Hotel, Lutèce, Philippe, Geelong Cats, Estelle and The Langham Hotel.