Philip Tessier is a chef, culinary innovator, and head coach of the Team USA that made history at the 2015 Bocuse d’Or, the world’s most prestigious and rigorous culinary competition. Some highlights:
• Graduate and fellow of the Culinary Institute of America
• Led the U.S. team to win the silver medal at the Bocuse d’Or, the first time Americans had placed at the biannual event. The team will return in 2017 with the hope of capturing gold
• Former chef de cuisine at Bouchon and executive sous chef at the French Laundry, in Yountville, California; sous chef at Le Bernardin and Per Se in New York. Trained at Moulin de Mougins in Mougins, France
• Regards Chefs Thomas Keller, Jonathan Benno, Corey Lee, and Eric Ripert as mentors
• Developing a restaurant concept with plans to open in 2017
• Working on a culinary innovation that will change the way people cook
• Works for Ment’Or, a nonprofit that oversees Bocuse d’Or USA and nurtures the next generation of stateside talent
• Named a Rising Star Chef by StarChefs.com
• Fitness routine involves CrossFit, cycling, and soccer.
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The Toughest Job Ever Loved
Peering carefully at a long line of cookbooks at his local library, a grade-school-aged Philip Tessier thought about the instructions his mother had given him.
Pick a cookbook and start cooking.
His brother, given the same task, chose one aimed at kids. Tessier, however, reached for a cookbook with complex recipes. The choice foreshadowed his future profession, which would ultimately lead to a historic moment—taking silver at the Bocuse d’Or, a world-famous culinary equivalent of the Olympic Games. The American team had never placed that high.
“It was an incredible feeling for everyone,” says Tessier.
Out of necessity, his mother worked late, which meant the kids started or prepared dinner. Tessier was drawn to food that his family had never eaten, like strawberry trifle, loving the element of surprise. They were his first audience. For a school project, he made Brazil’s national dish: feijoada. Pigs feet, one of the ingredients, didn’t deter him in the slightest.
His first job in a restaurant was cooking breakfast. Tessier loved the community and the opportunity to learn. He saw eggs as a challenge.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect,” he says. “Practice makes permanent.”
Because of his focus on practice, watching Tessier work is mesmerizing; he has a flow to his technique like a dancer. Every motion is carefully choreographed, even for a simple technique.
“One of the terms that we always use in the kitchen is the dance,” Tessier says. “It’s everything. It’s the chorography between the cooks in the kitchen, and the choreography between the kitchen and the dining room and eventually the dining room and the guests. Just like any Broadway show or musical performance.”
His willingness to perfect techniques meant spending months training for the Bocuse d’Or at Bouchon in Yountville, California. He and Skylar Stover, his commis (chef assistant) in the competition, would begin every day working out in the gym and then meeting up at the restaurant to train.
“Never in my life have I worked that hard for one thing—every moment of every day. It pushes you to new heights of recognizing your potential,” Tessier says.
Part of the U.S. team’s mission is to nurture the next generation of culinary talent and to ensure that young American chefs have the opportunity to become the best. The training and win, for example, helped Stover land a job at one of the top restaurants in the world. It’s an accomplishment that makes coaching the team so gratifying, Tessier says.
“You realize it will always be a memory for them—a pinnacle moment,” Tessier says of a photo capturing the 2015 victory. “That was just a super satisfying, priceless moment.”