In a super-elegant New York City apartment, the two chefs who had won the right to represent the United States in the Bocuse d’Or, the world’s most prestigious international culinary competition, were busy scooping bananas into perfectly round little balls. Their challenge: to create an easy, innovative and exceptionally beautiful menu for a small group of food-world insiders. They set about their task with the same focus that had marked their efforts in the qualifying round of the Bocuse d’Or, just two months earlier in Orlando, Florida. Minus the bananas, the scene could have been from a Vermeer painting: the strong light, the domestic tableau, the cooks working intensely, even the Delft-blue aprons.
© Quentin Bacon
It took a lot of determination for the Bocuse d’Or USA team, Timothy Hollingsworth and Adina Guest, to arrive at this point. Over the past seven years, Tim worked his way up from commis to sous-chef at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley, with apprenticeships in France, Germany and England. Keller, who was recently named president of the Bocuse d’Or USA committee, recommended that Tim try out for the competition to allow him to “reach forward with his creativity.” Tim chose Adina, who also cooks at the French Laundry, to be his commis. “Tim calls me out on everything,” Adina says. “He corrects me right away, which is a good thing. You have to improve, or you don’t succeed. And it makes you improve every part of your life.” After beating seven other American chef pairs in Orlando in September, Tim and Adina prepared to go to Lyon, France, in late January to battle 23 teams from around the world in the biannual contest, which French über-chef Paul Bocuse founded 21 years ago. In anticipation, they began running through prospective recipes in the French Laundry practice space.
Before Tim traveled to France, I asked him to come to Manhattan for a Food & Wine challenge: to create a gorgeous menu that even a novice cook could prepare. I wondered whether his training at what is arguably the best restaurant in America might get in the way. In perhaps the smartest move a chef can make, Tim channeled his mother. What would she cook? he asked himself.