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U.S. chef Timothy Hollingsworth prepares a dish in Chassieu, near Lyon, central France, during the Bocuse d'Or, an international cooking contest -- January 28, 2009 - 


Scott Jagow: The French are very proud of their culinary prowess. But it's very possible that an American will win the top prize today at the Bocuse D'or. It's basically the Olympics of cooking. The American team is led by a 28-year-old named Timothy Hollingsworth. He's the sous chef at the restaurant French Laundry in Napa Valley, and he's trying to become the first American to win this prize. Anita Elash has more

Announcer: And here we have the meat dish for Sweden!

Anita Elash: Chefs from 24 countries gather in the French gastronomic capital. Lyon, to try to out-cook each other. The winner will only take home $26,000, but the prestige he'll bring with him is priceless.

French chef Jacky Freon was the first to win back in 1987. He talked by cell phone from the competition hall.

Jacky Freon (voice of interpreter): When I won, I became well-known by the French media, and that pushed my career along very quickly.

In a matter of months, business at Freon's restaurant went up by 40 percent. But he says if Timothy Hollingsworth becomes the first American to win the prize, it would almost guarantee him status as an international superstar.

In Paris, I'm Anita Elash for Marketplace.