Our chefs stay focused on battle plan

Emotions are running high for RACV chefs Joshua Pelham and Harrison Caruana. 

RACV chefs Joshua Pelham and Harrison Caruana. They have accepted the challenge to represent Australia in the Bocuse d’Or, a gruelling gastronomic competition that is also known as the Culinary Olympics. 

But with travel restrictions in place, they are waiting to hear if the Bocuse d’Or Asia-Pacific Selection 2020 in July - one of four qualifying contests - will go ahead. “Most of our anxiety is related to not knowing if it will be safe to travel overseas. But we are feeling confident with our preparations,” says Joshua, who has been Executive Chef at RACV Cape Schanck Resort for three years.  

The biennial competition is named after French chef Paul Bocuse and has been held in Lyon, France, since 1987. It has become a lauded and theatrical event, with the preparation of the dishes taking place live in front of an enthusiastic and vocal audience. “The history of the competition is very strong, especially in Europe. They take it very, very seriously,” Pelham says. "We are definitely the dark horse in the race."   

Joshua and Harrison have been in training since September, under the guidance of head coach Scott Pickett and a panel of senior chefs. Joshua has worked with Scott before, as his Head Chef at Estelle, and is well credentialled for the competition, having completed his apprenticeship at Fenix with George Calombaris, Raymond Capaldi and Gary Mehigan and worked in London under Philip Howard at The Square and Kitchen W8.

Harrison, a William Angliss Institute graduate and Commis Chef at City Club, is a fitting partner, having won two silver medals and a bronze medal at the national Nestle Golden Chef’s Hat Awards last year. He was also a finalist in the prestigious Thierry Marx Award.  

The only thing that can go wrong on the day are nerves and confidence

“I’m pretty good at staying calm, but I’ve never put myself under this kind of pressure before,” Caruana says. “It makes MasterChef look easy.” In recent weeks Joshua and Harrison have been training at their respective homes and challenging themselves to cut out some gluten and starches from their diets.  “It has pushed me to create delicious dishes. So far so good,” Joshua says. 

When they compete in the Bocuse d’Or Asia-Pacific Selection 2020, they will have five-and-a-half hours to create two elaborate protein dishes, each bearing three different garnishes.  “We will be highlighting indigenous ingredients to give our food a taste of Australia for the European judges,” Joshua says. Of the 70 countries fielding teams, only 24 will be selected to compete in the grand finale in Lyon in January 2021.  

“The amount of time dedicated to preparing for the competition is massive, but there’s no excuse for not being ready. The only thing that can go wrong on the day are nerves and confidence,” Joshua says. 

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