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A juror samples a competitor's dish at a past edition of the Bocuse d'Or. ― AFP picA juror samples a competitor's dish at a past edition of the Bocuse d'Or. ― AFP picPARIS, Dec 2 ― In a sign of the times, the world's most prestigious cooking competition has introduced a new challenge that will involve cooking a main dish composed entirely of vegetables.

For the grand finale of the Bocuse d'Or next year, chefs representing 24 countries will be tested on their gastronomic dexterity with the humble vegetable ― a food group that traditionally plays a supporting role to proteins like meat, fish and poultry on dinner plates.

And in a move that aims to thwart chefs from cheating the taste of a carrot or turnip with butter, cream and cheese, the challenge also prohibits the use of any dairy products.

In some ways, the decision to add a vegetable-centric challenge is long overdue.

Over the last few years, public awareness of the health and environmental consequences of red meat consumption has grown, leading to movements like Meatless Mondays and the growing popularity of vegetables in the upper echelons of haute gastronomy.

One of the world's most buzz-worthy chefs, René Redzepi of Copenhagen, is the latest Michelin-level chef set to open a new eatery that will serve an entirely vegetarian menu for part of the year.

The kitchens will source their produce from an on-site, urban farm and greenhouse that will form part of the restaurant.

French chef titan Alain Ducasse also had tongues wagging when he introduced a meat-free menu for the reopening of his restaurant at the luxurious Plaza Athenee hotel in Paris in 2014.

But perhaps one the leading chefs to pioneer the movement is Alain Passard, who foresaw the perils of excessive red meat consumption and took it off his menu back in 2001.

Meanwhile, back at the Bocuse d'Or, which could be described as the real-world “Iron Chef” competition, chefs will be competing to bring culinary glory to their country.

For the vegetable challenge, chefs will be able to choose from 146 fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and seeds. They will also be able to use up to two products native to their country. Judges allot 20 per cent of their marks to the geographic and cultural heritage of each dish.

Along with the vegetable plate, chefs must also create a dish using Bresse chicken and shellfish.

The Bocuse d'Or fetes its 30th anniversary and takes place in Lyon January 24-25. ― AFP-Relaxnews 

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