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Top-10 finish for Belgian chefs at culinary Olympics
Belgium has finished eighth at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary competition – known as the gastronomic Olympics – with the top three spots all taken by Nordic chefs.
The team representing Belgium at the final in Lyon, France, comprised chef Lode De Roover of Fleur de Lin restaurant in Zele, East Flanders, 21-year-old sous-chef Piet Vande Casteele, and coach Jo Nelissen, who teaches at the renowned Spermalie hotel school in Bruges.
The 24 competing teams from around the world had five-and-a-half hours to create a spectacular Chartreuse vegetable tart and roasted rack of veal. In the overall judging, Denmark took first place, followed by Sweden and Norway.
“The Scandinavian countries are absolutely the best,” De Roover told Het Laatste Nieuws. “We are fighting to catch up. In the past two years we have definitely made great leaps, and let’s say they can feel us breathing down their necks. In terms of working methods, techniques, preparation and creation of the dishes, we are not far behind them.”
Performing well at international contests such as the Bocuse d’Or is an important part of Flanders’ strategy to make a name for itself as a gastronomic destination, and the region’s tourism ministry has invested heavily in professional preparation for this and other competitions.
Via Tourism Flanders, tourism minister Ben Weyts has invested €1.5 million each year since 2017 in the strategy. This has gone towards creating a professional framework, enlisting top coaches and establishing a training centre in Harelbeke, West Flanders.
“This team is the best advertisement for our rich food culture,” Weyts said. “In Flanders we have our own culinary identity and that was very much on show in Lyon. The result puts Flanders in the culinary window. The more we stand out in international competitions, the more people will recognise that in Flanders, you can eat well everywhere you go.”
The biennial Bocuse d’Or was created by legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, who died a year ago. Belgium has won eight medals since the competition was first held in 1987, but their last time on the podium was in 1999 when Ferdy Debecker, now the chair of Bocuse d’Or Belgium, took bronze.
Photo: The three Flemish chefs’ take on the vegetable Chartreuse © Pieter D'Hoop