It’s hard to find anybody on the local food scene who’s not talking about Michael Clauss, The Daily Planet’s new executive chef and one of 12 American semifinalists for the Bocuse d’Or competition. The dozen candidates will compete in Hyde Park, N.Y., in February for a chance to represent the U.S. at the 2011 competition in Lyon, France.
Andrew Friedman is a New York author who just published Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d’Or Competition. When we phoned him to ask about Clauss’ chances, Friedman noted that no American has ever won the Bocuse crown: “Traditionally, to do well, you have to cook classic French food.” But the fact that Clauss most recently worked for French chef Daniel Boulud “is a real leg up [for him],” Friedman guesses. “I think that background is really important.”
Clauss’ competition sponsors, Jason Zuliani of Dedalus Wine Shop and Joe Perrotto, a Vermont Fresh Network board member, believe his participation will reflect well on Vermont. “The opportunity to support … a Burlington chef competing at this level was irresistible,” says Perrotto.
After the American semifinalists were announced last Monday, says Planet manager Kristi Cook, “our website quadrupled in hits. I’m excited for [Clauss],” she says. “It’s just one more reason we’re happy to have him.”
A few other reasons Cook lists: The chef’s unusual mussels, in a sauce made with ginger beer and black garlic, and his new dessert menu, which features fried-to-order doughnuts, maple crème brûlee and chocolate mousse. “They look beautiful,” she notes. “Dessert sales are going up.”
Clauss, who was headed out of town when we spoke, opted to keep his comments simple: “I’m very excited about the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to competing in February,” he said.