By: Katie Baker, Newsweek
He calls it the War Room. Located behind 30-ton blast doors in a fallout shelter—built for Congress in the late 1950s and nicknamed “The Last Resort”—its walls are papered with plans, diagrams, and calendars that painstakingly plot out the minutes ’til the Big Day. Across the hall is a replica of the battle site, stocked with high-tech equipment and laid out inch-by-inch to resemble what he’ll find when he touches down on French soil.
This is Richard Rosendale’s command center. Inside the bunker’s underground labyrinth, he’s preparing to attempt a feat that, until now, has eluded American chefs: medaling at the Bocuse d’Or, the biennial competition known in the industry as a kind of cooking Olympics. Named after French culinary icon Paul Bocuse, who first dreamt up the event in 1987, it’s the elite European version of the now-ubiquitous Iron Chef–style cooking showdowns that foodie audiences love.
For the next event, which takes place in January, fans will flock to Lyon to support their favorite hospitality heroes, with the atmosphere tending toward the carnivalistic. “You can feel the people cheering,” says Rosendale. “It feels like a soccer game.” There will be noisemakers, bands, buses full of groupies, face paint, strobe lights, thundering techno music. (“I installed speakers in the bunker,” says Rosendale, “to play the crowd sounds.”)
For years, the U.S. has placed abysmally—so much so that Bocuse took matters into his own hands in 2008 and appealed to legends Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud to establish an American version in order to cultivate Yankee talent for the championship. The winner of the first Bocuse d’Or USA—Tim Hollingsworth, from Keller’s French Laundry—went on to place sixth in France, tying the best U.S. result to date.