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Canadian chef Alex Chen places ninth at prestigious Bocuse d'Or culinary contest

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LYON, France - Canadian chef Alex Chen earned a ninth-place finish at the prestigious Bocuse d'Or cooking competition, an event widely heralded as the culinary Olympics.

The two-day event concluded Wednesday in the east-central French city of Lyon with the home country being awarded the top prize.

Thibaut Ruggeri of France received the gold Bocuse and a cash prize of 20,000 euros (around C$27,000). Jeppe Foldager of Denmark nabbed the silver and a cash prize of 15,000 euros (around $20,000), while Noriyuki Hamada of Japan was awarded the bronze Bocuse and 10,000 euros (around $13,000).

The chefs had 5 1/2 hours to cook two dishes — European turbot and French blue lobster as well as Irish beef tenderloin, with the option to include chuck steak, ox cheek and oxtail. They also had to come up with three garnishes, including one representing their home country.

The British Columbia-based Chen was among the chefs from 24 countries who faced off in the biennial contest.

The 36-year-old was lured back to Canada in December 2011 from Los Angeles, where he worked as executive chef at the high-profile Beverly Hills Hotel after stints at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto and Chicago.

During 2012, fundraisers held by Moxie's Grill and Bar — Chen's sponsor — in Calgary, Toronto and his hometown of Vancouver helped Chen secure money for the equipment and supplies he took to France, including a $15,000 platter designed for him and on which his fish creation was presented.

Chen expressed gratitude to his sponsor, friends and fans for helping fulfil his dream of competing for Canada in the culinary contest.

"This has been an incredible journey, and it was truly a privilege to represent Canada at the Bocuse d’Or," Chen said in a release.

"The competition is unbelievably fierce, and the opportunity to compete at this level is something I will never forget."

Preparing for the contest consumed Chen's life since he beat five chefs in a national contest in Toronto in April 2010, putting him on a track to fulfil his dream of representing Canada at the Bocuse d'Or, which has been held every two years since 1987 and was named after Lyonnais chef Paul Bocuse.

The event was founded by Bocuse and Albert Romain, organizer of the International Food Trade Exhibition, who sought to create a contest to bring the greatest chefs out from behind closed doors and onto the world stage.

Canadian Robert Sulatycky earned the best-ever finish for a North American chef in the Bocuse d'Or, placing fourth in 1999. He mentored Chen during preparation for the contest.

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