Every time I go to France, I make it as far as Paris and just stay there, romanticizing about all the wine, baguettes and delicious cheese I can eat without getting fat (well, thats what they say), but making it to Lyon was a special treat, although I have to admit the people do not get nicer. I had the spontaneous opportunity to go to Lyon for the biannual Bocuse d’Or competition last week because of some ties to the Radisson hotel. My flight was booked at 4pm on Sunday for departure at 7 am the next morning, and only with the help and organizational skills of others already going did I actually make it to France. I didn’t book any of my own travel or hotels, have any idea what was going on half the time, but blinldy followed around the others in charge and had such a great time just going with it.
I didn’t get a chance to sleep til Tuesday, and we spent all day Tuesday cheering for Iceland’s candidate, Thrainn Freyr Vigfusson, and then all day Wednesday patiently waiting for the compeition results. Everything went down at Sirha, a huge exhibition self-proclaimed as the world’s rendez-vous for all restaurant and hoteling needs.
Thrainn’s direct support crew were some of his closest friends, his coach slash former bronze Bocuse medalist Hakon Mar, and his comis chef Bjarni Jakobsson. Behind them they had a couple more kitchen helpers, namely Atli and Tomas, and then about 50 or 60 Icelandic cheerleaders, all friends, family or restaurant industry related people. We were only outnumbered by perhaps the French and Japanese spectators, although 50 Japanese cheering sounded like background noise compared to only 4 or 5 Icelandic men clapping, screaming “Islande!” in bass voices, and blowing off all sorts of noice makers. We had awesome tshirts, face paint, and viking helmets to make sure we didnt go unnoticed.
We spent the time outside of Sirha taking in the best wining and dining Lyon had to offer, eating at a bunch of different restaurants since Lyon is the world’s gastronomy capital. We partied at Wallace bar, a joint with over 200 whiskies, overrunning it with the same Icelandic people 4 nights in a row and probably giving them the best mid-week business they’ve ever seen.
We crashed a Norwegian techno dance party the night after the results, celebrating Thrainn’s 7th place finish; he was expecting better, and under a shroud of politics and suspicious dishonesty, he perhaps deserved 3rd or 4th, but 7th is damn good for a country of 300,000, competing with a small fraction of the budget that medal winners Denmark and Norway had (Denmark brought the Prince with him!).
We had one relaxing day to be tourists, and took the day to drive out to Domaine de Clairefontaine, a beautiful chateau south-west of Vienne, where the famous Philippe Giardon runs a restaurant and catering heaven amidst the surrounding vineyards and countryside. I’ve never really traveled for food tourism before, or in a group of 50 people, but everything turned out so well, and ironically enough, I’ve never felt more like an Icelandic patriot.
Icelandic Newspage for food and wine, and Bocuse d’or reports (in Icelandic): http://www.freisting.is
Bocuse d’or: bocusedor.com or bocusedor.is