With his “herb and nut-crusted rack of pork and variation on butternut”, Clément Oudin was crowned the winner of Cooking Talent 2022, a competition for amateur chefs organised by Maison Taittinger. A prize viewed by this 31-year-old Normandy newcomer as both a springboard for success and an endorsement, as he prepares to turn his achievements into a career.
“My hands were shaking for the first hour, which is definitely not recommended when you’re handling very sharp knives!” Fortunately, it wasn’t long until Clément Oudin managed to steady his nerves, from which point on he could fully focus on the challenge at hand. The chosen theme? Rack of pork and butternut squash. He was in luck.
“I’m used to cooking this meat, which also helped me when it came to filling out and submitting my application form in time, having only found out about Cooking Talent three days before the registration deadline.” On 28 November, in the highly professional setting of the Miele Experience Center in Paris, he executed his recipe. Three hours to cook and plate six dishes (one for each member of the jury and one for the photographer). It’s a lot and yet not much when, like him, you enjoy slow cooking: his rack of pork required 2 hours 30/40 in the oven at 105°. “I wanted to cook as I do for my family and friends. I went back to basics: cooking it for just the right amount of time and serving it with classic meat juice, no over-embellishments. The jury thought it was perfectly executed, enjoying the precision in its simplicity. They also liked my variations on butternut and thought I’d done well at sticking to the theme. I’m grateful to programmes like Top Chef, which taught me to focus my efforts on the final product!”
“Competitions motivate you”
To keep learning is Clément Oudin’s main goal. A management school graduate, he has always worked in catering, but in leadership positions, never in the kitchen. Other than his own, that is. “Cooking is one of those pleasures that involves pleasing other people. It’s rewarding when they taste my food and enjoy it. You’re conveying emotions through the combination of flavours, cooking and unusual ingredients.” There are platforms for developing culinary skills. And better still, there are competitions. “Competitions motivate you. Taking part is very time-consuming and stressful, but that’s where you gain experience and confidence, see how you react in uncomfortable situations and meet leading chefs, whose advice is invaluable.” Having already won the Trophée des Léopards, a culinary contest in Normandy, he has been able to shine a spotlight on the Cooking Talent competition. “Taking part is the most important thing… but winning is nice, too!” he admits, with particular emphasis on the sense of camaraderie and great atmosphere among the three finalists.
“We all have that competitive nature, but we also wanted to help each other out and have fun.” In the middle of a career change since leaving the Paris area for Normandy, Clément is actively seeking a new role as a full-time chef. His success has brought him several perks, including receiving an invite to attend the final of the Taittinger – International Signature Cuisine Prize in January 2023 as a spectator. Where maybe one day he’ll return as a candidate.