JJC Chef Chosen for U.S. Culinary Olympic Team

Joliet Junior College Culinary Arts Professor Tim Bucci is one of seven chefs from across the country chosen to be on the U.S. Culinary Olympic team that will compete at the 2012 Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany.

Held every four years, the event brings together the best chefs from nearly 60 countries to test their culinary craft. Bucci competed in the 2008 World Culinary Olympics, where one of his entries, a wild sockeye salmon and sturgeon buffet platter for eight that included six appetizer plates of lobster, quail, rabbit, vegetarian, rainbow trout, and pork, won the gold medal in its category.

Even after his 2008 success, Bucci, a JJC alumnus, still had to try out to be considered for the 2012 team, organized by the American Culinary Federation. After being one of 35 chosen from a larger applicant pool earlier this year, Bucci was successful in two competitions—one devoted to cold food, the other to a hot food dish—to make the final cut.

Bucci said the chefs had to present platters, plates and finger food for cold display. Those who did well were invited back to participate in the hot foods tryout, which consisted of a fish course and meat course, which took two and a half hours to complete.

With the international competition less than two years away, Bucci said in addition to good, old-fashioned practice, he and his teammates also take part in smaller contests to prepare. Most recently, Bucci said the U.S. team competed with 26 other culinary teams in the Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg held in late November.

They received third place overall, with gold medals in the hot-food portion and cold-food display, competing against teams from Wales, Italy and Malta. In this competition, Bucci said the team prepared a three-course meal for 105 guests.

“The judges grab plates throughout the service to taste and critique,” Bucci said. “It is done secretly so that teams are not making the judges plate better than others.”

He added that the judges look at technique, creativity, craftsmanship and presentation, amongst other things.

“Everything we do is getting ready for the big show-the World Culinary Olympics,” Bucci said. “Teams practice for years to prepare for this. We met in different states and different kitchens to prepare-and that doesn’t include the countless hours of practicing at home for practice with the team!”

Bucci said that each chef has their own category to prepare, but everyone has input on the final product.

“Working as a team is what is going to make us successful… This is the best feeling I have ever had in a competition setting,” Bucci said. “To be placed third in the world [at the Luxembourg World Cup] is a feeling that really still hasn’t sunk in yet.”

In addition, Bucci also runs the JJC Renaissance Center Friday Night Dinner Series and the Tuesday A la Carte Lunches.

(Photo by Matthew Grotto/Southtown Star)

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