From 2 to 7 February, Stuttgart was once again the venue for the IKA/Culinary Olympics and thus the stage for international culinary sport and good taste. The organizer VKD draws a positive conclusion and is proud of the positive feedback from participants and guests.
Text Anna Häuser
Standing ovations, euphoria and tears of joy wherever you looked: the excitement of seeing each other again in Stuttgart after four years that have challenged everyone in their own way was palpable. More than 1,200 participants, including 88 teams and more than 520 Individual Exhibitors from a total of 55 nations, were drawn to the Baden-Württemberg capital from 2 to 7 February for the 26th IKA/Culinary Olympics. For the second time, the German Chefs’ Association (VKD) organized the oldest, largest and most international culinary competition in the industry in parallel with Intergastra – and more than 88,000 visitors came to the exhibition halls. “The association received special support for the mammoth project ‘IKA’ thanks to the great work of Messe Stuttgart, Dehoga Baden-Württemberg and the numerous volunteer VKD members. We are very grateful for this,” says VKD President Daniel Schade.
Precise Cooking Skills and Transparent Judging
A total of 17 professional kitchens was set up especially for the IKA, the teams cooked more than 7,000 menus in the ICS International Congress Center over the four days of the competition – from elaborate seven-course dinners for 14 people to high-quality three-course menus for 120 people. The Restaurant of Nations offered space for 888 guests, where industry colleagues, IKA fans and culinary art enthusiasts could embark on a culinary journey around the world. But it’s not just the taste and presentation that count. “When judging, the jury also looks at mise-en-place, hygiene, waste avoidance and punctuality, among other aspects,” says VKD President Daniel Schade. “These are all things that the teams practice and perfect months before the competition in order to be sure of scoring points.” The precision with which the 70-strong IKA jury headed by Jury President Frank Widmann works was once again evident at yesterday’s award ceremony: two gold medals were awarded in each of the Community Catering Teams and Live Carver categories, as the participants were rated the same to three decimal places. “The IKA jury works extremely professionally. Such transparency in the judging is essential for a competition of this size,” says Daniel Schade. Gold went to the Live Carvers An Xuan Li (Taiwan) and Tereza Buchtova (Czech Republic). In the Community Catering Teams category, the Compass Group Culinary Team Finland (Finland) and the Swiss Armed Forces Culinary Team/SACT (Switzerland) share first place. The Olympic champion in the Regional Teams category is PaisWorld Culinary Team Korea (South Korea). With the Junior National Teams, Sweden defended its 2020 title and secured gold once again. The new Olympic champion of the National Teams is Finland.
IKA: Piece of Hope
The atmosphere during the IKA/Culinary Olympics was special and often very emotional on all days: this was ensured by the many hundreds of professional chefs in white and the numerous fans who cheered on their teams in front of the glass kitchens. The participation of the Junior National Team from Ukraine was honored with standing ovations during the parade of nations and at the award ceremony. At the opening ceremony, Daniel Schade spoke of the “peaceful togetherness of the international chef community” and Worldchefs President Thomas Gugler invoked the “Power of the White Jacket”. The signs in Stuttgart were of cohesion and reaching out across borders. “Looking back over the years since the last IKA, we are particularly happy about how many chefs were able to take part in this competition in 2024. We are also grateful for the strong support of our partners, who have provided high-quality kitchen equipment to ensure a competition experience that is close to perfection,” says Daniel Schade. “None of this can be taken for granted and it shows that the IKA is an event that can give a piece of hope to an industry, at a time when the world sometimes seems to be falling apart at the seams. We are proud to be able to offer our great profession this stage.” And true to the motto: “After the IKA is before the IKA”, the German Chefs’ Association is already making preliminary plans for the next Culinary Olympics in 2028 – once again in Stuttgart.