Q&A with Jerome Bocuse

Jerome Bocuse, the son of the legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, has become the new president of the Bocuse d’Or contest, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in January 2017. He spoke with Jackie Mitchell about following in his father's footsteps and his new challenges

What’s keeping you busy currently?
I’m in charge of the food and beverage operations at the French Pavilion at Epcot Park at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. This includes Chefs de France, a French brasserie; Monsieur Paul, a more refined restaurant and a QSR boulangerie. I’m also president of the Bocuse Brasserie Restaurant Group, based in Lyons, France. I spend 10 days of every month in Lyons and travel the world in my position as president of the Bocuse d’Or contest. I’m also involved in Hiramatsu Bocuse, a licensing company in Japan – there are seven restaurants under licence such as Brasserie Paul Bocuse Ginza.

How does it feel to have been appointed the new president of the Bocuse d’Or contest?
It is an honour and a huge responsibility to be guiding the team in the right direction set by my father in the last 30 years. I want to preserve his DNA while developing the contest in the best way I can. My father is 91 years old and suffering from Parkinson’s disease. There comes a moment when it’s time to pass the torch to someone else. He’s still around – his brain is active – I treasure his advice.

Why is the contest so important?
It showcases the talents of 24 young chefs from all over the world. Thirty years ago it was hard to find 24 countries to compete, but now we have over 60 countries and the contest has been divided into Europe, Asia and the Americas. The competition is all about bringing together chefs from all over the globe to communicate and share ideas. The contest reflects what is happening in the culinary world – Scandinavian countries have been successful in the Bocuse d’Or and as a consequence, Scandinavian cuisine has become very popular.

How does it feel to follow in your father’s footsteps?
It’s never been easy as the bar is so high. I’m not looking to be better than him – that would be impossible. I want to keep his name and philosophy alive.

What is your relationship with your father like?
We have a great relationship now. We have strong personalities so it was best I made a name for myself in the USA to show I can do something on my own. I don’t think it would have worked for me to work alongside him in Lyons, France.

What was your earliest childhood memory of him?
When I was 5, he took me to the food market in Lyons – we got up at 4.30am.

What was it like coming out of the shadow of an industry legend?
I never wanted to be a chef – it didn’t appeal. We had very little family time – my father always worked hard. I wanted to be a professional skier – I was a member of the junior French ski-ing team from 12 to 20, but I realised I couldn’t make a career from it. I knew having the name Bocuse would be easier in the USA than France so I studied at the Culinary Institute of America, New York and the Miami Hospitality School. I joined the Chefs de France business in 1996 and became the owner four years later.

What did your father teach you?
Discipline and respect. His motto is Van Gogh’s saying “How hard it is to be simple”.

Tell us about your work with Chefs de France – how has the food offering evolved over 20 years?
We serve over 1,000 people a day. For some guests, this is their first time to experience French cuisine so my role is as ambassador of French cuisine. During that time, we’ve remained faithful to the classic dishes. The big change is how we make the dishes with new technology and equipment. Products are better than 20 years ago so we now serve a better quality of dish.

Are you going to open any other restaurants?
I’m looking for quality, not quantity. We’ve just opened Brasserie des Lumières at the Lyons Football Stadium serving French tapas.

What are your goals?
To keep the Bocuse name alive and what it means to the culinary world and to live as long as my father.

How do you relax?
By spending time with my family. I love taking them ski-ing in the Alps.

Bocuse d’Or – 30th anniversary
This famous prestigious gastronomy competition to showcase the talents of young chefs was created by Paul Bocuse in 1987. The final brings together 24 talented young chefs from all over the world, where they have to prepare dishes within a time limit live in front of an audience. The next one will be held on 24 and 25 January at Sirha, Lyons, France, marking the competition’s 30th anniversary

Jackie Mitchell



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