The London institute was delighted to be the first venue outside of Paris to host the prestigious competition, welcoming some of the most talented chefs from around the world to compete in the same kitchens where Le Cordon Bleu students learn their craft. The competition provided a fantastic opportunity for students to volunteer as assistants in the kitchen, and closely observe the level of skill on display.
The subject of the free interpretation was revealed a year before the competition by the organizing committee of the International Award for cuisine d’auteur as pork. The President of the Prize, Emmanuel Renaut, did not choose this subject by chance, it clearly represents the turning point sought by the famous institution and gave the candidates from different countries total freedom of creative expression, regardless of rules they may have learned along the way.
The set recipe was revealed to the eight competitors the evening before the competition. They then had one night to come up with a recipe of a vegetable soup or a bouillon without animal proteins. A great chef should be prepared to tackle the unexpected with flair from a solid foundation of technical expertise, and Jan Smink was able to pull off the challenge of these two tasks with great skills.
Jan was representing the Netherlands for the third and final time this year. As this was his farewell appearance, he came to the competition more determined than ever to join the list of recent Dutch winners: Lars Van Galen and Jonathan Zandbergen, who won the Taittinger Prize in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
Owner of a restaurant in the north of the country, Jan has remained very attached to his rural upbringing by both living and working near his parents’ farm, which rears dairy cattle. He could have taken over the family farm, but it was his brother who took up that mantle. Jan knew from a very early age that he would become a Chef and retains close ties with his farming roots, working with both locally sourced produce and milk derivatives such as colostrum.
The competition took three hours and 45 minutes, and contestants were tasked with making a vegan soup starter and pork-based main. The winning dishes from Jan included a soup made from Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip, truffle, miso and smoked olive oil; and a main consisting of pork filet with truffle baked in brioche, crispy skin with shiitake, gravy with pork & puffed garlic, black pudding with apple & macadamia, terrine with celeriac& ham.
Jan was competing against chefs from Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Hirofumi Kanbe of Prunier in Tokyo, Japan was runner-up, and Alexandre Vuillin of La Pyramide in Vienne, France.
The competition was judged by an impressive line up of culinary stars, including honorary president of the competition Michel Roux Jr, Dominique Crenn, Claude Bosi, Mark Flannagan, John Williams, Andrew Pern, Éric Briffard, Mikael Kempf, and Ryo Horiuchi, who won the competition last year.