What can the UK Bocuse D’Or team learn from the professional world of cycling? Blog by performance psychologist Mike Duckett

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th August 2018

Cycling fan and performance psychologist Mike Duckett explores how the UK Bocuse D’Or team can take a leaf out of Team Sky's book.

How can Team Sky's successes be applied in a professional kitchen environment and in particular to culinary teams competing in the Bocuse D’Or?

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Bocuse D’Or

If you’re new to the sport of cycling you could be forgiven for thinking we’ve always dominated it, particularly when the other teams at the Beijing Olympics admitted they were all racing for Silver.

I’ve been a cycling fan most of my life and got used to the accepted mindset that the Brits were contenders on the track and sometimes very good on the road - Tom Simpson and Chris Boardman for example – but it was unthinkable for a Brit to win a Grand Tour.

Then look what happened! Not only do we dominate track cycling we now dominate road racing. How did we get here? This wasn’t supposed to happen; we were supposed to be in there to supply competition but not to win!

407px David Brailsford
David Brailsford

We have become so successful that the French took Performance Director, Sir David Brailsford’s joking comment seriously when he told them it was because our wheels are especially round. When he was asked about the truth of this he said something that made me think of the Bocuse D’Or:

“The real secret to our success is peaking at the right time, talented athletes, commitment and ... brilliant coaching.”

I am much newer to Bocuse D’Or than I am to cycling, so I can only speak for this year and the future. Since we did poorly at the last event, having done so well previously (Adam Bennett just missed the podium with 4th place) I sense a renewed determination in the GB team. In fact, when I talk with this year’s contender, Tom Phillips and the team I’m reminded of Team Sky and the Tour De France in so many ways.

Do we really want to WIN this? I think we do; we even have an academy set up with this prime goal. So, what can Sky teach the team about turning individual competitors into a winning machine?

One thing is the meticulous performance planning. Brailsford is well known for his commitment to the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’; the willingness to pay attention to the finest detail if it can possibly add a very small gain in performance: e.g. the riders take their own pillows on tour so that even a good night’s sleep isn’t left to chance.

Team Bocuse are now having performance debrief and planning meetings to both treat their preparation methodically and to look for all the small details that could lift their game when the pressure is on.

Here are just two of the key elements of performance planning for Bocuse that Team Sky have inspired:

The vision

Back in 2010, Brailsford had the vision to see a British rider win the Tour in five years’ time.

The Chairman of Bocuse D’Or UK Academy, Andreas Antona equally has the clear vision of a British Chef winning in Lyon in five years’ time. For Sky -  it happened sooner than they planned, so watch this space!

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Geraint Thomas

One Step at a Time

There are many clichés such as ‘when climbing a mountain, take it one step at a time’ but in an elite sport, this is crucial. Throughout this year’s tour, Geraint Thomas was constantly asked about his chances of winning but all he would reply was that he only thought about the next day’s stage. So much so that he was actually surprised to eventually find there was no ‘next day’ and he’d won.

The Bocuse team recently had to compete in Turin to make it through to the final in Lyon and during the planning and the work-ups there was only one focus – Turin. Now and only now can they focus on Lyon.

Next time, maybe we can take more inspiration from Team Sky to consider other winning performance elements such as focusing on the controllables and money!

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with another thought from Sir David Brailsford, which could easily have come from Andreas Antona, “do every little thing right and almost without noticing you can do something big”.


Mike Duckett
Mike Duckett

Mike Duckett has a degree in psychology and is a member of the Occupational Psychology division, the Sports Psychology division & the Coaching Psychology Special Group of the British Psychological Society. He holds a diploma in Hypnotherapy & Cognitive therapy and is a certified NLP coach.

With over 20 years experience he was one of the pioneers of applying performance psychology to coach people in the hospitality industry to get the best from themselves, in areas such as creativity; leadership; optimism etc.

As a certified NLP Coach and ANLP Accredited Master Practitioner, Mike has clients ranging from world-renowned chefs, restaurateurs & sommeliers to up and coming staff in both the kitchen and front of house. You can see more of Mike's blogs atcoachforsuccess.wordpress.com

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th August 2018

What can the UK Bocuse D’Or team learn from the professional world of cycling? Blog by performance psychologist Mike Duckett