Going for Bocuse gold

With blue skies and a sunny forecast, there’s little on most people’s minds apart from escaping the daily monotony.

Unless your name is Emiliano Schobert.

Emiliano Schobert  in focus mode.
Emiliano Schobert in focus mode.

The Bariloche-based chef is set to fulfil a lifelong dream at the end of this month, when he represents Argentina at the Bocuse d’Or 2015.

You could describe it as an Olympics for chefs, but following a glimpse of how Emiliano, who runs El Obrador Escuela de Arte Culinario de San Carlos de Bariloche, has been prepping for this for the past 12 months, it’s more like an ultra-marathon.

And given that this prestigious culinary competition – where 24 nations basically have a cook-off – only comes around every two years, it’s a big deal to be the one chef representing your country.

Emiliano’s dream started more than decade ago when he started entering the National Culinary Competition (Concurso Culinario Nacional), the first step along the lengthy road to reach Lyon, France, and the coveted Bocuse d’Or.

Making his competition debut in 2003, he was pipped at the post locally by other top gastro names including Dario Gualtieri (Casa Umare) and Martín Molteni (Pura Tierra and Marita) over the years, although he came in second in 2011. That was until 2013.

Two years ago, the Buenos Aires-born chef cooked off against Duilio Gorgal (Colegio Gato Dumas), Mauro Trinarolli (Hotel Llao Llao), Andrés Blasco (Instituto Argentino de Gastronomía), Adrián Gerboles (Hilton Hotel) and Facundo Toche (Hotel Windsor) – and won.

That triumph, however, did not give him carte blanche straight through to France.

Emiliano had to prove himself once again by snapping up one of three coveted spots at the Azteca Latin American Culinary Competition (Gran Concurso Culinario Latinoamericano Azteca) in Mexico City in August 2013, when he represented Argentina at a regional level. Managing to slip that accolade under his belt by taking first place, his fellow regional competitors are from Chile and Guatemala, making this the sixth time Argentina has participated out of 14 competitions.

So how do the judges select a winner? Each contestant has five hours and 35 minutes to cook two dishes featuring two main ingredients – a cut of meat and a fish – and this edition’s selections are guinea fowl and trout. Both dishes should include three garnishes and a sauce.

Who you calling a trout?
Who you calling a trout?

Given that trout is one of Patagonia’s star ingredients, and it’s a fish that Emiliano is frequently in contact with, luck is on Argentina’s side and there’s a genuine shot at the Bocuse crown.

According to Martín Molteni, president of the National Bocuse d’Or Academy and 2003 representative: “Emiliano is a creative being, culinary, prepared and ready to undertake a unique product via a lot of ingredients that come from the Andes mountain range. His dishes will include mushrooms, herbs, flowers and spices that will talk for him when the moment arrives for him to build the dishes he’ll be presenting at the 2015 Bocuse. We’ve got more than a chance – we’ve got a lot of passion – and that’s very important!”

Patagonia is very much at the core of the two dishes, as the chef explains: “The idea of the menu is to interpret Patagonia’s identity via its flavours and the aesthetic of its wind and movement. The biggest challenge is to have an attention-seeking visual presentation, awaken interest and create delicious dishes with correct flavours.” And in order to infuse as much of Patagonia into the dishes as possible, Emiliano also worked with various biologists who advised him on native plants that could make the final cut.

Besides the good fortune of a familiar product as a core, Emiliano can also count his blessings that renowned Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco has a seat on the judging panel. While impartiality should, of course, reign, it can’t hurt that the two-Michelin-starred chef who’s based at Mirazur in the south of France, will hold plenty of weight when it comes to influencing his fellow judges.

So how exactly does one prepare to become the best chef in the world?

Emiliano and second-in-command Aixa Carosio, who picked up the best assistant prize in Mexico City, have been training every day for over a year for six hours. Kicking off with a gruelling schedule at 7am, the chef has been cooking against the clock to a pumping soundtrack in order to practise keeping focused, given that 2,000 people will be attending the event in Lyon, which is enough to put anybody off. Supported by Terrazas de los Andes winery, Emiliano is also in top physical shape to undertake the rigours of competition – check out this video for a little insight.

Part of the Bocuse criteria is competing with an assistant aged under 21 and Aixa, a culinary student as well as a physical education one, made the cut thanks to her discipline and desire to achieve.

“I saw her hanging off a rock that, if she fell from it, she’d die and I thought ‘this girl is perfect’” says Emiliano. “She won’t seize up in the competition.”

The pair, along with trainer Fernando Orciani, have been in France since January 2 giving the finishing flourishes to the training schedule under the expert eye of Colagreco at Mirazur.

In December, I had the good fortune to test drive Emiliano’s trout course at the Alvear Palace, where Team Argentina presented the dishes’ bespoke tray made by industrial designers Martín Sabattini and Manuel Rapoport from Designo Patagonia. There’s no food porn spoiler alert as I won’t go into details to keep matters fair, but the trout combined French knowhow with Argentine flair and was delicious.

But will it be a winner? The countdown continues. In 16 days’ time, booth seven at the Sirha Fair in Lyon will see Emiliano and Aixa going for gold. Can Argentina bring home the Bocuse d’Or for the first time?

Support the Team Argentina campaign here.

Buenos Aires Herald, January 11, 2015
Ph: Feedback PR

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