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Scandinavian chefs triumph at top culinary competition Bocuse d’Or

Denmark, Sweden and Norway took the top spots in France's prestigious culinary competition Bocuse d'Or.

Scandinavian chefs triumph at top culinary competition Bocuse d'Or
The Scandinavian medallists. Photo: AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani

Kenneth Toft-Hansen, who owns the Svinklov Badehotel establishment at Fjerritslevin in the far north of Denmark's Jutland peninsula, saw off allcomers to take the prize in the French gastronomic hub of Lyon.

“I saw exceptional work – there are no words, save to say it was wonderful and good,” three-star chef Christophe Bacquie, who headed the jury, told AFP after selecting Toft-Hansen.

“I feel amazing, amazing, amazing,” said Toft-Hansen, who emerged victorious after a gruelling five-and-a-half-hour session to see off Swede Sebastian Gibrand and Norway's Christian Andre Pettersen.

“It was so many hours of work together with my commis. It was a team effort rather than one-guy work,” he said.

Toft-Hansen was the latest Nordic chef to add to an extraordinary level of success in the event which has seen five Norwegian triumphs, two Danish wins and another for Sweden to date.

Scandinavian contestants have finished at least in the top three every time in the biennial event going back to 1991.

Hosts France by comparison have seven crowns but have missed even a podium finish since 2013.

“I think in general we [Scandinavian countries] have a big history of competing. So those flavours, the freshness, it was the right time now. We just had a good day,” said Toft-Hansen.

This prize, this is the biggest achievement, to prove yourself that you are able to do that, it is something I will never forget.”

The Dane won through in a strong field of 24 chefs including two women who had to call on all their skills and technique to produce their signature take on two typical French recipes – chartreuse with shellfish and rack of suckling veal.

The former was a tribute to French chef Joel Robuchon, who died aged 73 from cancer last August and the latter a homage to Paul Bocuse, the famed chef who established his eponymous award in 1983.

‘Nouvelle Cuisine' pioneer Bocuse, held in similar regard within the French gastronomic pantheon, died from Parkinson's disease at the age of 91 last year.

Bocuse's son Jerome has taken over the reins of the Bocuse d'Or and he handed over a golden statue in his father's likeness to Toft-Hansen as the Dane lifted what is seen as the ‘World Cup' of culinary events.

The five-day meeting for hotelry and catering professionals drew more than 200,000 visitors and some 25,000 chefs, according to Marie-Odile Fondeur, director general of International Hotel Catering and Food Trade group Sirha which hosted the showdown.

Article by AFP's Marjorie Boyet

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FOOD & DRINK

Nordic chef sets up world’s northernmost Michelin restaurant in Greenland

You can only get there by boat or helicopter, but Michelin-starred chef Poul Andrias Ziska hopes his restaurant in remote Greenland, far above the Arctic Circle, is worth the journey.

Nordic chef sets up world's northernmost Michelin restaurant in Greenland

The 30-year-old chef relocated his restaurant KOKS from the Faroe Islands in mid-June, leaving behind his relatively accessible address for Ilimanaq, a
hamlet of 50 inhabitants hidden behind icebergs on the 69th parallel north.

Housed in a narrow black wooden house, one of the oldest in Greenland, the restaurant can only accommodate about 20 people per service, and experiments with local produce, including whale and seaweed, with fresh produce almost impossible to find in the harsh climate.

“We try to focus on as much Greenlandic products as possible, so everything from Greenland halibut to snow crabs to musk ox to Ptarmigan, different herbs and different berries,” the tousled-haired, bearded chef tells AFP.

Double-Michelin-starred Faroese chef of KOKS restaurant Poul Andrias Ziska is photographed outside the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland on 28th June 2022

Double-Michelin-starred Faroese chef of KOKS restaurant Poul Andrias Ziska is photographed outside the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland on 28th June 2022. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

The young chef previously ran KOKS at home in the remote Faroe Islands, where he won his first star in 2017, his second in 2019, and the title of the
world’s most isolated Michelin restaurant. 

He plans to return there for a permanent installation, but explains he had always wanted to stretch his gastronomical legs in another territory in the
far north, like Iceland, Greenland or even Svalbard.

He finally chose Ilimanaq, located an hour’s boat trip from Ilulissat, the third-largest town in Greenland and famous for its huge glacier.

Greenland, the world’s largest island, is an autonomous Danish dependent territory.

Local products

“We just found it more suitable, more fun to do something completely different before we move back in our permanent restaurant,” he tells AFP from
his kitchen, set up in a trailer outside the house with the dining area.

With 20 courses, the extensive tasting menu will delight the taste buds for some 2,100 kroner ($280), excluding wine and drinks.

“The menu is exquisite and sends you to the far north and back,” Devid Gualandris, a charmed visitor, tells AFP.

“From the whale bites to the wines, from the freshly caught fish and shellfish to the curated desserts, everything is bursting with flavour.”

While whale meat is a staple food in Greenland and Ziska’s native Faroe Islands, whaling is banned in most of the world and activists have called for
an end to the practice.

A KOKS chef prepares food at the kitchen of the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland, on 28th June 2022.

A KOKS chef prepares food at the kitchen of the restaurant housed in the Poul Egedes House in Ilimanaq, Greenland, on 28th June 2022. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

An unlikely locale for a gourmet restaurant, Ilimanaq — Greenlandic for “place of hope” — is home to a small community living in picturesque wooden
houses, next to hiking trails and more fittingly a luxury hotel, making it an ideal stopover for wealthy tourists seeking to explore new frontiers.

For Ziska, the customers in Greenland are different.

“There are a lot of people for which the number one priority is to visit Greenland and then they come to our restaurant,” he says.

“In the Faroe Islands we had mainly people interested in coming and eating at our restaurant and then obviously also visiting the Faroe Islands,” the
chef explains.

In addition to the adventurers who have already been lured by the Arctic landscape, the Greenlandic Tourist Board hopes the restaurant will also help
attract gourmet travellers.   

People get seated in a restaurant overlooking Disko Bay in Ilulissat, western Greenland, on 30th June, 2022.

People get seated in a restaurant overlooking Disko Bay in Ilulissat, western Greenland, on 30th June, 2022. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

“The unique combination of high-level gastronomy, the inherent sustainability of the North Atlantic cuisine and the characteristic nature and resources of the Disko Bay, speaks to all our senses,” Visit Greenland’s director, Hjortur Smarason, said when announcing the arrival of KOKS.

Accommodation at the Ilimanaq Lodge, the current home of the KOKS restaurant in Ilimanaq, Greenland, where guests can watch whales and floating icebergs in the Disko Bay. Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

A long-overlooked destination, Greenland — an Arctic island territory nine times the size of the UK — welcomed more than 100,000 tourists in 2019, nearly double its population, before Covid cut the momentum.

Smarason said the presence of KOKS “is exactly what we strive for in our effort to reach a certain distinguished kind of guests”.  The restaurant is open between the 12th June and 8th September, 2022 and 2023. 

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