Following the Patterson/Linch dinner at COI, the latest Bocuse d’Or fundraising event took place at Michael Mina’s trendy SoMa restaurant. This time, the spotlight swayed between the kitchen and the dining room as Bay Area culinary celebrities gathered to support the US team in the famous French competition. For everyone else, it was a sort of dining with the stars.
A couple of hours before service, the staff gathered in the middle of the long dining room for a pre-shift meeting. The event was explained, the dishes described, VIP reservations made known. Tonight RN74 will be serving a Bocuse d’Or tasting menu under the direction of Mina and Jason Berthold, the restaurant’s executive chef. Berthold describes each preparation with enthusiasm, Rajat Parr follows suit dwelling about the exclusive wine pairings that, according to him, you’d have to be crazy not to order. It is business as usual, but they all know there is nothing usual about tonight.
Back in the kitchen preparations are well under way. Berthold oversees the work while sipping a cup of hot tea. The atmosphere is calm; the calm before the storm.
As the first tickets emerge from the small kitchen printer, the quietness is overtaken by an energetic atmosphere that resembles the engine room of a war submarine; the air filled with steam, people in constant motion, orders called aloud.
While the dining room VIPs included the likes of Tre Cool (a.k.a. drummer of punk-rock band Green Day), the A-list food celebrities gathered backstage. For a moment, Berthold’s kitchen looked like a rock concert green room. Heavyweight chefs (no pun intended) included Michael Mina, Timothy Hollingsworth and Richard Reddington.
Berthold and Hollingsworth worked together at The French Laundry but tonight, Tim, as his friend calls him, was Jason’s guest. After all, the chef is sort of a poster child for The Bocuse d’Or having defended the US in Lyon last year. And even though that was not the first time his country competed, Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud’s involvement brought greater media attention to the event. The grueling quest for the Olympics of cooking is documented in the book Knifes at Dawn. With Hollingsworth back at his day job as chef de cuisine for Keller’s flagship restaurant in Yountville, he can help mentor the next US team before next year’s competition. But tonight, champagne in hand, the chef celebrates. On the house, of course.