On April 30 young chefs met at George Brown College in Toronto for the Bocuse d’Or culinary competition, organized by the Canadian Culinary Federation. After two days of intense competition, Stephen Lepine, sous chef of the Calgary Golf & Country Club, was declared the winner. Lepine was chosen from a field of five competitors to represent Canada at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France in 2013. But only a few days later, on May 8, word got out that there had been a mistake tabulating the judges’ scores. It resulted in the announcement that Alex Chen of The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows, in Los Angeles was the true winner.
In a letter from Vince Parkinson, manager of the CCF Bocuse D’Or, posted on the Culinary Design Solutions food blog, he explained the situation.
“I was asked by some of the competitors how they could do better at the competition, and as I was reviewing the scoring sheets on Tuesday I noticed a mistake, which affected the result of first and second place. The first question is how could it happen, the numbers were checked by a couple of people, but it got through.
“My first action was to notify the president of the chef’s association (Jud Simpson) and inform him that I would talk to Steven Lepine, and that I would revoke his win. Steven is, of course, my sous chef and has been working beside me for over eight years.”
Understandably, the conversation with Steven was “gut-wrenching” says Parkinson. “As you will know the relationship between a chef and his sous chef can be very close as it is in this case, and believe me I would have done almost anything to avoid that conversation with Steve, anything but allow an incorrect result to stand. Steve was of course upset but handled the news with grace and gave me more comfort than I probably deserved.”
Chen is now officially the winner of the competition and will represent Canada in Lyon in 2013. “Steven Lepine has offered his ongoing support of the project, which speaks volumes about this young man’s commitment and integrity,” said Parkinson.
While the error is embarrassing, Parkinson closes his letter by drawing on the wisdom of Winston Churchill: “all men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”
Chen, who studied culinary arts in British Columbia, has been serving at The Beverly Hills Hotel since 2005, when he began as executive sous chef. Prior to that, he worked at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.