ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Team USA won the prestigious Bocuse d'Or cooking competition in Lyon, France, this week. It was the first time the USA has won in the contest's 30-year history. It's like the World Cup for chefs, bringing together teams from Guatemala to Singapore to Iceland. Winner Mathew Peters used to be the sous chef at the well-known New York City restaurant Per Se. He and his team made 14 dishes in the big Bocuse d'Or finale.
MATHEW PETERS: We started off with a vegan dish with cremini-mushroom-wrapped asparagus thinly sliced and kind of shingled over the top with a fork-crushed potato...
SIEGEL: And there was much more, from lobster with Meyer lemon mousse to braised chicken wings, foie gras, corn custard and toasted pistachios. All of this was prepared in a kind of stadium with cheering crowds and announcers, cameras, music, coaches. I asked Mathew Peters what it was like to cook in an environment like that.
PETERS: I mean it's exhilarating. You have this passion and devotion from all of our fans that ended up showing up and traveled thousands of miles just to come and represent America. It gave us the energy, you know, in the kitchen, which was fantastic, and I think that really drove us to do what we needed to do.
SIEGEL: How much time did you take off from work to prepare for this competition?
PETERS: We've taken off the entire year for training purposes.
SIEGEL: (Laughter) Describe - how do you - what's your training regimen for a year...
SIEGEL: ...Of training for a cooking competition?
PETERS: You're working on food. You're perfecting it. We had a great designer from Crucial Detail with Mark Kastner that developed all the tools that allowed us to get the timing and the execution that we wanted and the design that we were looking for, so...
SIEGEL: You're talking about knives and other kitchen utensils that were specially designed?
PETERS: No, we're talking about reinventing, you know, cooking equipment in general, whether it was a potato press that he was able to create that gave us a specific form and shape that we were able to execute out of, as well as sharpening tools that we were able to get the perfect carrot size and shape.
SIEGEL: OK, so this year sounds in part like it's training for a space shot or something like that.
SIEGEL: And then what do you do? I mean do you run to keep up your strength? What do you do with all those...
PETERS: Yeah, I mean working out is a huge part of it. Five and a half hours on your feet cooking and turning and bending - and it's wear and tear on your body, so you know, it's good to stay fit. It's good to stay strong.
SIEGEL: Now, as appetizing as your champion dishes sound, I read in the very critical review that The New York Times did of Per Se, the restaurant where you were a sous chef...
SIEGEL: ...That it could set back a party of four $3,000 to have dinner.
SIEGEL: Are you considering some budget lines so that somebody of average means might be able to sample your dishes?
PETERS: You know, it's not my decision on, you know, the price of food. You know, the dishes that we do, we do it for us.
SIEGEL: If you're throwing in the overhead for the blacksmith who's making the...
SIEGEL: ...The tools in the kitchen, I begin to see how you can...
SIEGEL: ...Rack up a bill after a while.
PETERS: Right, well, people have to understand that for the high quality of food, it's very expensive. The execution, the team, the people that go behind it - it's all accounted for at the end of the day.
SIEGEL: This was the first win for America in this competition, in the Bocuse d'Or. Is it a big step, do you think, for American high cuisine?
PETERS: I think it's huge. You know, it's exciting. It's an exciting moment for, you know, America. It's an exciting moment for the cuisine in America to be able to have this much attention around it.
SIEGEL: That's Chef Mathew Peters, the winner of this year's Bocuse d'Or competition. He joined us via Skype from Paris. Thank you, Matthew, and congratulations.
PETERS: Thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE KNUX SONG, "CAPPUCCINO")
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