The Crowd Goes Nuts for Medium Rare

The Bocuse d’Or is considered the Olympics of food, and for such a laurel, teams train by setting fire to money. The American entrant Timothy Hollingsworth, for example, prepared by buying a replica of the kitchen he’d be using on game day and taking three months' paid leave from his job. Hollingsworth is a chef at French Laundry. His boss, Thomas Keller, was the American team’s president. Altogether they spent $500,000. Hollingsworth lost — the Bocuse d'Or is so crazy that not even Keller’s chosen one can crack the podium (America has done no better than sixth place, while the French pick up medals like Mark Spitz). But it’s not so crazy that another Keller protégé can't manage a silver medal — Jonas Lundgren, who worked at French Laundry years ago, took home second for Norway with a loin of cod, cod belly, and about 50 other things. All of this is detailed in Andrew Friedman’s excellent book about last year’s competition, Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d’Or Competition. Chefs have just five hours to prepare their food, and Friedman wrenches drama out of each minute. If you like watching the clock on Top Chef (which incidentally just had its own mini-Bocuse d’Or in November, which neither Voltaggio brother won, ridiculously), this is your book.
Tue., Dec. 15, 6 p.m., 2009

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