Chefs from the Americas are competing in New Orleans in hopes of making finals in France

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A pastry competition kicked off what Chef Emeril Lagasse a kind of “culinary Olympics” taking place in New Orleans this week, with chefs from nine countries in North and South America competing for honors in a host city that gets to show off its celebrated food culture.

The Pastry World Cup event started Tuesday. It coincides with the Bocuse d'Or Americas competitions. While pastry was the focus Tuesday, competitions involving savory creations open Wednesday.

Lagasse, the New Orleans restaurateur and celebrity chef, is honorary president for the Bocuse d'Or Americas event, a prelude to finals early next year in Lyon, France.

“We had to choose ingredients that were indigenous to New Orleans,” Lagasse explained Tuesday. “It's a very tough decision. Do you go the gumbo route? Does somebody in Peru know how to make gumbo?”

The ingredients chosen: alligator sausage, grits, wild boar rack and seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.

“It's going to be really interesting to see what they put together,” Lagasse said.

While Lagasse spoke, the focus at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans was on Tuesday's pastry competition, where renowned French pastry chef Pierre Hermé lauded the “crème de la crème” of pastry chefs from the participating nations.

The culinary competitions continue through Thursday.

The Associated Press