Daniel Boulud is arguably one of the best chefs in New York City, with seven restaurants in Manhattan, six James Beard awards and countless other culinary accolades. But today, he’s leaving the cooking to someone else. Someone like 18-year-old Mimi Chen, who is among the aspiring chefs competing for a chance to attend the premiere Bocuse d’Or cooking competition.
The Bocuse d’Or is basically the world championships of cooking. So it’s essentially 60 countries vying for 24 spots at a final that’s held every two years in Lyon, France. Chen is among the young finalists who have a shot at traveling and working with Team USA. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is made possible by Ment’or, a nonprofit started by renowned chefs Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jér?me Bocuse.
For every grant we give to a young chef to be able to take a sabbatical from his job ... to be able to experiment in other people’s places ... and yet go back to their job, and come back energized, come back inspired ... That’s what we’re looking for, helping the next generation to be better than us.
It’s hard to imagine anyone better than the chefs who recently assembled that institute of culinary education in New York, but the road to culinary greatness starts with early.
I was 17. I went to culinary school and then graduated when I was 19. It’s about pushing yourself to work for the best. Finding the right chefs to work for, and then sticking it out.
Brendan Scott is only 20, but already has big plans. I want to be a chef, I want to compete in the Bocuse, I want to open up my own restaurant. ... I want to do all these things. ... but no matter what, I think it’s just gonna take time.
According to the National Restaurant Association, industry sales for commercial restaurants are projected at $720 billion this year. For young chefs hoping to make their mark, mentorships can be crucial.
There’s restaurants that you just can’t make that leap to sometimes on your own, and this is our way of recognizing talent and connecting it to opportunity.
That opportunity just paid off for Mimi Chen, who in the end won the commis or the apprenticeship competition. A victory perhaps not only for her, but for the culinary world. Tina Trinh, VOANEWS, New York.