It's Bocuse d'Or International Culinary Competition time again, in which teams from 24 countries compete for the honor of winning Paul Bocuse' legendary culinary prize. The Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation, which is led by Jerome Bocuse, Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller (just think about those three names for a minute and you'll get a sense of the prestige of this thing) is seeking “qualified chef applicants” to represent the United States in this year's competiton, which will take place in Lyon, France, in 2011. Last year's winner was Geir Skeie of Norway. Timothy Hollingsworth of The French Laundry, in Yountville, California, placed 6th in the competition.

16 applicants will be selected to compete in the semi-finals and finals, which will be held this February at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Nora Carey, executive director of the Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation, says that there were 30 applicants last year, and that, as far as she can recall, no Los Angeles chef has ever participated in the competition. “This year we're gong to make it more difficult in the first round,” said Carey by phone on Friday from New York. “I think it will generate more excitement.”

This year the Bocuse Foundation is also offering scholarships for the first time, not to the competition, but for culinary study abroad. Four scholarships, two for “very young professionals” and two for “more seasoned chefs” will be available for use in 2010. Carey says that the applications will be posted on the Bocuse Foundation website by mid-November. “We want young chefs to understand that we're building a community,” says Carey. And, presumably, building future American chefs who might just win that impressive golden Bocuse trophy.

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