paul bocuse PAUL BOCUSE

In 1987 France’s noted chef Paul Bocuse wanted to serve his chosen field. Simply put, Bocuse, working from his own restaurant in Lyon, France, wanted to search the world for the finest chefs. Once assembled, they would compete against one another. The testing would be and is, stiff. Today 22 countries are represented. Testing is over two days. Each country prepares one fish course, one meat course. Each course serves a panel of 22 judges, one from each country.

Bocuse d’Or is Paul Bocuse’s contribution to the profession.

Food is art of the most intimate sort. The people who put foodstuffs together in restaurants around the free world are cooks. Once they think they have culinary talents in tow, they may or may not want to move up to a level where they honestly can be called chefs. Or, in a very few cases in the United States, they may elect to put themselves through one of the most rigorous testing procedures devised by any industry or profession. Those men and women who have a solid culinary background, in a restaurant, a country club, a corporate setting, a spa, or through peer testing conducted by the American Culinary Federation take the big step. If selected to apply for the testing, they submit to 10 days of testing conducted by the ACF.

ACF has been this nation’s accreditation arm since 1981. Less than 100 cooks out of three million food-service people have managed to pass muster and allowed to stitch CMC across their tunics. As of March 2002, only 74 chefs wear the CMC title - 16 are pastry chefs.

Hartmut Handke, 61, was successful in the third class - holding certification No. 13. Chef Handke is one of the very few masters who puts his culinary talents to a nightly test. He owns Handke’s Cuisine in Columbus, Ohio.

He did not go corporate. He did not choose to sell to the highest bidders, country clubs or some tony spa. He cooks six nights a week. He walks his dining room stopping at each table to get reaction for what his kitchen is serving.

harmut TIM REVELL / DISPATCH PHOTO Handke’s primary passion is competing in culinary competitions. Since the mid-1980s he has gone to the chop block in 50 food contests around the free world.

What are the results? Handke has won 36 of the 50 events. His golden hardware is partially displayed in his Columbus restaurant. Why Columbus?

Credit his two daughters, Susi and Kirsten. They liked Columbus. And their father liked Columbus. He wanted them to finish their schooling and formative years in Columbus.

Handke knows Columbus. He made his major culinary reputation during his five years as executive chef of the Athletic Club of Columbus. Then he spent five years in the same post at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. An opportunity to own his own restaurant in Columbus surfaced when a steak house closed. The landlord wanted prestige in the location, the Brewery District of the city. Handke took the space over 11 years ago. Each of those years, Handke’s Cuisine has been on The Columbus Dispatch’s list of Top 10 fine dining venues.

All of the above is sufficient reason for this writer, and this Web site, to establish a world wide informational link to follow his progress as he competes for the world’s top culinary prize - the Bocuse d’Or.

- By Doral Chenoweth

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