It is 9 o’clock a.m. in the Capucins’ market in Bordeaux. At the entrance an ephemeral kitchen was set to welcome all participants of the French championship of amateur cooking: organisers, staff, candidates, chefs, judges, are ready to succeed today. This event was initiated 8 years ago by Grégoire Provost, the president of the FFA ((French Federation of Cooking). Due to his passion of cooking he participated himself in this contest. Today everyone is passionate about food and cooking, from the participants to the public and the organisers. You can feel this passion in the atmosphere.
The first stage is about to start and each of the 4 candidates have 1 hour to make verrines that will be marked by the judges and then by the public. After that the second stage with another 4 candidates will start with the same process and rules. Ready? The countdown is on!
This event pays a tribute to local products. Each candidate has to create a recipe with specific products from the region including: asparagus, walnuts, white onion, carrots, potatoes, duck, goat cheese and Bayonne ham with compulsory ingredients like quenelles or raviolis.
Eric Gérona, a chef first known for his participation in the TV show “Masterchef,” demands a lot on the quality and the origin of these products. He founded the association called “Flagrant Délice”, favoured partner of the event, which is built upon the promotion of amateur cuisine and local products. While the candidates work hard on their creations, Eric makes recipes on live and one of them arose my taste buds. Here is a recipe with a very interesting taste mix and which is surprising due to the local products that are used:
Products: fennel, saffron, granny apple, cuttlefish, almonds, calvado
- Comfit fennels in pieces during 1 hour and more at a maximum of 100° (212°F)
- Ad saffron during the cooking
- Cook shallots in a frying pan while you prepare and cut the cuttlefish into little pieces. Add the shallots in the frying pan, then flambé in the calvados, seasoning and cook a few minutes. Be careful to not cook too much otherwise it will have the texture of rubber.
- Julienne the apple. Crush the almonds.
- Arrange in a verrine: first put the comfit fennels, then the cuttlefish, add the sauce based with the shallots, the apple and finish with crushed almonds on top.
The anise flavour of the fennel is eased by the neutral taste of the cuttlefish and its sauce. The granny apple gives a crunchy and acidic flavour that enhances the taste of the all preparation.
Eric would define this verrine by “a cuisine of combination, blend and harmony of taste.”
Back to the candidates who are also very inspired. Igor Servant chose to create an “asparagus cappuccino with duck breast”.
He is a real challenger and loves the competition. Even if he participates in others contests and wins trophies he is still a true amateur of cuisine like the other participants are. This contest is reserved only to amateurs, which gives them a good opportunity to show what they worth and to feel proud to be a chef. From a chef, to an amateur the skill is different but the passion is the same. An amateur won’t have the same mastery of the tastes and techniques that a chef will but the result can be surprising as you can see in the picture above.
Time is off, the fate of the candidates is left in the hands of 4 judges as well as 4 renowned chefs: Stéphane CARRADE (Executive Chef of the Grand Hôtel in Bordeaux), Aurélien CROSATO (Chef of the Soléna restaurant), Nicolas MAGIE (Chef of the St James) and Thierry RENOU (Chef of the Patio).
As an amateur myself I can imagine the stress of each candidate being judged by these chefs. The public will be taste and mark the verrines much to the delight of their taste buds and their empty morning stomachs.
After 4 hours of contest we finally have a winner who will represent the Aquitaine region for the national final next November amongst the other 14 finalists of the contest. With his carrot and duck verrine, Yann won the prize from the judges! Congratulations to him for this success!
The public voted:
3rd place: Xavier
2nd place: Igor
1st place: Yann
The next stop for the championship will be Roubaix in June. Today the contest has 15 stops in all of France. The president of the FFC, Grégoire Provost, would like it to be regional some day with 15 to 20 stops in one region. According to the success of this event it already attracts not only French people but also many different people from around the world, so there's a great chance of reaching this goal some day!