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"World Master of Culinary Arts" Award


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An American restaurateur whose kitchen is a converted laundry in a remote Californian town has been crowned as the world's finest chef at a ceremony in Paris.

Thomas Keller, chef at the French Laundry in the Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, was awarded the title of World Master of Culinary Arts by an international jury last week, beating off competition from French chefs Alain Ducasse and Guy Martin, and British-based Raymond Blanc.

Keller, one of the pionneers of the "Californian cuisine" style, said: "My cooking is contemporary American based on French classics. Being American allows me to be a little more liberated."

A first-round of the competition, run by the Wedgewood Awards and judged by distinguished national juries, had selected seven best chefs from Italy, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and the UK, as well as from the USA and France.

UK winner and World Master finalist Raymond Blanc said of Keller: "He is one of the most serious people in the industry, as much in terms of his inventiveness as in the quality and consistence of his work. He definitely deserves this."

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This is the press release:

THOMAS KELLER THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, CALIFORNIA

IS THE WORLD MASTER OF CULINARY ARTS 2001

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

U.S. Masters The Culinary World Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, California was not dreaming tonight when he was named as World Master of Culinary Arts 2001, storming the great bastion of European supremacy, America comes of age in being awarded this great honour. Thomas Keller takes his place amongst the greatest chefs of modern times. Competition for the Wedgwood Awards was fierce, with 70 of the finest chefs in the world being nominated.

The seven finalists were:

THOMAS KELLER, THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, YOUNTVILLE USA - REPRESENTING USA

NEILPERRY, ROCKPOOL, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA- REPRESENTING AUSTRALIA

KOONYA TYEUNG, FORUM REST. - REPRESENTING HONG KONG

RAYMOND BLANC, LE MANOIR AUX QUAT' SAISONS- REPRESENTING UK & IRELAND

JUNYU KIMURA, YUKIMURA, TOKYO- REPRESENTING JAPAN

FULVIO PIERANGELINI, GAMBEROROSSO, SAN VINCENZO- REPRESENTING ITALY

GUY MARTIN, LE GRAND VEFOUR, PARIS- REPRESENTING FRANCE

Each country's finalists were nominated by independant national juries, with the final decision being taken by the Grand Jury. The Award was presented by Sarah Duchess of York at a celebration dinner in the magnificent Salon Imperiale, The Hotel Inter-Continental, Paris. The unique trophy was specially commissioned and handmade by the finest Wedgwood craftsmen. It is set to become the most sought after prize in the hospitality Industry.

THE GRAND JURY

The National Captains represented on The Grand Jury are Richard Shepherd CBE, UK:

John Alexander, AUS: Allan Zeman, HK: Yukio Hattori, Japan: Ferdinand Metz, USA:

Enzo Vizzari, Italy: Roger Verge & Michel Bourdin, France.

GRAND JURY CHAIRMAN - ROY ACKERMAN OBE

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ORCOMMENT:

Event Organisers - Peter Williams & Associates +44 (0)1565 830788

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Yukio Hattori--wasn't he on Iron Chef?

Competition may have been fierce but does anyone know if there ever was any actual competition?  I may have missed the press releases previously--but wasn't this a few people--the juries--dining out at the selected restaurants?  Were any details ever released to indicate otherwise?

Are we at least being led to believe that the Grand Jury visited all the finalists after being winnowed from the nominees?

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Yay, Yukio Hattori still gets work!

Congratulations to Keller, too. :biggrin:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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As far as I am aware, the competition was purely based on the opinions of the lucky judging panel eating their way around the world. Each country had it's own team with a senior judge who then went on to judge the finalists.

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I wonder how strongly motivated Keller was to win this award, in the same way that Gordon Ramsay was apparently obsessive about winning a third Michelin star.

From some accounts -- Ruhlman, Bourdain, etc. -- I get the impression that Keller is competing only with himself, that he sets standards that are different (and usually tougher) than those imposed by outside judges.  Ruhlman's book suggests that Keller would have been contemptuous of certifications like the CMC.

Yet the website dedicated to the French Laundy makes much of his consecutive Beard Foundation awards.  Would he do poorer work if he didn't have the chance to be named "best chef" (whether in the US or the world)?  Do these awards really matter?  And especially one like this, which doesn't have the history of Michelin behind it?

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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He didn't have to do anything to win it. I suppose it's like a knighthood or something, you just get it if you are judged to be worthy of it for your cooking, services to the industry, the example you set etc etc. I guess it all helps but I'm sure he doesn't need it to boost his business or anything.

As you know Michelin don't publish a US guide and this was a worldwide "competition" so their involvement or otherwise isn't an issue really.

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I wrote earlier in this thread--"My initial suspicion is that this is one grand global advertorial--no more, no less--paid by Wedgwood and in collusion with chefs, writers, and personalities who have been paid off to be involved."  I've seen nothing since to change my mind.

This is about hype, name recognition and brand--involving elite chefs and restaurateurs but doubtless not involving meaningful competition, judgement or actual quantifiable criteria.  I can't imagine it is taken seriously by any chef involved except as a marketing tool.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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