Danish chef crowned winner of top French culinary award
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Scandinavian nations landed a gastronomic clean sweep Wednesday as Danish chef Kenneth Toft-Hansen won the prestigious Bocuse d'Or, France's prestigious culinary competition.
"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, acording to Marie-Odile Fondeur, director general of International Hotel Catering and Food Trade group Sirha which hosted the showdown.