Chef Kenneth Toft-Hansen of Svinkløv Badehotel, a hotel on Denmark's northern coast, just beat out a Swede and a Norwegian to win the prestigious Bocuse d'Or prize for gastronomic excellence in Lyon, France.
Imagine Beat Bobby Flay, a cooking contest in which chefs go head-to-head with the same core ingredients, but where a win can actually change your life. Scandinavian chefs have repeatedly placed in the top three for the past 28 years of the Bocuse d'Or. The competition, often likened to a culinary Olympics, is judged by some of the world’s most exalted chefs and hosted by France, a country known for delectable cuisine. Past winners include Yannick Alléno, Régis Marcon, and the only American to take the prize, Mathew Peters. Another Dane, Rasmus Kofoed, the co-owner of Copenhagen's Geranium, took the top prize in 2011.
The competition is judged on technique and skill rather than on pure creativity. All 24 chef competitors start from the same grocery list—this year, the challenge featured chartreuse with shellfish and rack of suckling veal.
So why aren’t we all tying on bibs and heading north to feast? Because right now, Toft-Hansen is without a kitchen. The chef is in the process of rebuilding his hotel and restaurant (pictured), which were destroyed in a fire in 2016. He and his wife Louise are working to reopen their business, a landmark in the rural seaside town of Fjerritslev, by this spring.
The win will speed that along, and it must be especially meaningful to them— with a gold Bocuse d’Or prize hanging on their wall, they'll be booked up for years, so you might want to secure a reservation now.