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The USA Just Won the Olympics of the Food World

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Winning the Bocuse d'Or, a French culinary competition, is like winning the foodie Olympics. And this year – for the first time ever — the United States took the gold. America’s team was helmed by superstars from Per Se, which is part of Time Warner Center's The Restaurant and Bar Collection. Leading the team: Per Se executive sous-chef Mathew Peters and his commis Harrison Turone. Among the coaches: none other than Thomas Keller, Chef/Proprietor of Per Se and Bouchon Bakery.

Here are five reasons why winning the Bocuse d'Or is such a massive deal.

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1. It’s got esteemed roots.

The Bocuse d'Or was founded 30 years ago and named for the legendary French Chef Paul Bocuse. Held biennially in Lyon, France, it has been called “the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world.” The golden trophy is a likeness of Bocuse in his chef's whites.

2. The competition is fierce.

No less than 24 countries send in their best chefs in an effort to grab the gold, and the jury is made up of food-world luminaries from around the globe. The United States has competed over the years but has never taken the top spot — until now. France has won six times. Take that!

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3. The setting is intense.

Unlike pre-taped shows such as "Top Chef", the teams at the Bocuse d’Or prepare their dishes in front of a live audience in an open culinary theater. It’s a high-octane scene, with a thousand screaming, flag-waving, horn-blowing fans. If you’ve ever been to a soccer match in Brazil, you get the idea.

4. The contest is as challenging as it gets.

Each team gets just 5 hours and 35 minutes to create their over-the-top presentations. This year, one dish had to revolve around the chicken and shellfish served at the first Bocuse d'Or in 1987; another had to be vegan. Scores are based on presentation, technical skill, cooking sophistication, creativity, and visual beauty.

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5. The food has to be amazing.

Chef Peters’ winning dishes included Bresse chicken stuffed with morel sausage, foie gras, and crawfish, as well as a vegan plate of California green asparagus with toasted almond custard. Peters said the inspiration came from New York to California: “I wanted to bring something that was all American. And that’s what we did.” And clearly, coming from a restaurant like Per Se made all the difference in the world.

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