Italy's great hope
Italian chef Martino Ruggieri, whose signature dish is this meat Trulli, is the country's culinary champion.
Accademia Bocuse d'Or Italia
Ruggieri, 31, from Itay's southern Puglia region, will compete at the European competition in Turin in June 2018.
If successful, he'll go straight to the world contest in 2019 in Lyon.
The deputy head chef of Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris recently beat three other Italian chefs at the national Bocuse d'Or selection which took place at the academy, located in the town of Alba, a UNESCO-listed Langhe region renowned for premium white truffle and rich Barolo wine.
During the long live cooking race, Ruggieri impressed a tough jury of Michelin-starred chefs, amid stadium-like cheering, with a "metaphysical" meat dish shaped into tiny, root-style dome dwellings of his native land, surrounded by a "magical circle" of red peppers, figs, pine dust and red turnip on rough grey terracotta platters.
Italians often use the phrase "to eat with the eyes", and Ruggieri's meat Trulli looked more like a contemporary art sculpture than something to gulp down.
His other veggie dish symbolized the cultural mix of Italy's south, featuring a patchwork of bright spices, pumpkins, oranges and mayonnaise.
Form equals substance, and Italians must learn this if they want the Bocuse d'Or world title.