Estonia continues to make its mark on the world’s gastronomy stage. Last week in Stockholm, Dimitri Haljukov (CRU Restaurant) placed eighth at the Bocuse d’Or Europe, ensuring Estonia a place to compete in Lyon in January at the finals.
“It has been a dream of mine for many years to compete at Bocuse d’Or. Now I’m in the final and I cannot describe the feeling," said Haljukov, after the results were in. Sweden took gold, Denmark silver, and Norway bronze.
One might expect the mood at a cooking competition to be tense - flying pots and pans, and strong chefs’ tempers. This is not the case. Team Estonia seemed calm as they prepared their dishes.
Emmanuel Wille, Haljukov’s coach, stood outside of the booth giving directions. Haljukov was focused on the task at hand. The energy in the room came from the audience and the fans that have travelled along with their chefs to cheer them on. Among Estonia’s fans was the First Lady of Estonia, Evelin Ilves. Evelin Ilves presented Estonia’s bid to host Bocuse d’Or Europe in Tallinn in 2018 to the Bocuse d’Or director Florent Suplisson. Hosting this prestigious cooking competition would certainly put Estonia on the culinary map.
Different raw ingredients are chosen for each competition. Every chef must prepare a fish and a meat course in five and a half hours, with nothing prepared ahead of the competition. This year’s raw ingredients were a true challenge. The fish course had to include pollock, a type of white-fleshed fish, as the main ingredient, as well as Belon oysters and mussels.
The meat dish, the course served on the large silver platter, was local Swedish pork. For Estonians, the pork was a fantastic ingredient to highlight Estonian cuisine, as pork has been a staple ingredient in the Estonian diet for centuries.
The Estonian meat platter was stunning, in particular due to the addition of silver origami pigs. “Origami is an entire sculpture made from one piece of paper without cutting it. A good cook knows how to use their creativity and skills to prepare a dish using all of the parts of an animal," remarked Dimitri Demjanov, president of Bocuse d’Or Estonia, referencing the nose-to-tail cooking philosophy.
A guide to the meat tray:
- Chef’s marbled Swedish ham & ham skin
- Estonian “boudin noir" glove and canelle
- Caramelized Estonian “Gortland” winter apple, lingonberry, roasted hazelnuts, and crispy buckwheat leaf (the maki-like object on the plate)
- Cabaret of pumpkin, spicy ham, and fava beans (the orange element)
- Rich piglet trotter, pig tongue, pig ears, and heart, like pot-au-feu over silky celeriac puree (in the metal ring)
- Young spring vegetables sautéed in piglet stock
The Bocuse d’Or began in 1987 and named after the chef Paul Bocuse, its president and founder. The competition was restructured in 2009. Twenty-four countries compete in the world finals, including the top 12 qualifiers (out of 20) from Bocuse d’Or Europe; the top four countries (out of 12) from Bocuse d’Or Asia; and the top three (out of 12) from Latin America. The Bocuse d’Or was the first of its kind - a cooking competition on a live stage.