IKA brings international Food Trends to Stuttgart From the world to Stuttgart and on the plates: The teams provide culinary inspiration. Photo: IKA/Culinary Olympics

From Europe to Asia to Down Under: In February, teams of chefs from all over the world will once again showcase specialties from their countries in Stuttgart and set culinary trends.

Text Anna Häuser Photos Respective Teams

In less than eight months, international chefs will once again compete at the IKA/Culinary Olympics and cook in fair competition for medals. The 26th IKA will take place from 2 to 7 February 2024, for the second time on the grounds of Messe Stuttgart and parallel to the Intergastra trade fair. Once again, jury members and guests alike can expect great things from the teams that bring the food trends of their countries to the Baden-Württemberg capital. 

Flavors from around the world 

Bert Van Manen

“The IKA is a stage for new influences,” knows Bert van Manen, team manager of the National Culinary Team Netherlands. “Basically, we use Dutch green herbs and many different vegetables in our flavors and dishes. In Stuttgart, we’re looking forward to competing with other countries and learning from each other.”

Patrick O'brian

In “Down Under”, the chefs also sees the Culinary Olympics as a real trendsetter in food. “I believe the IKA is the pace setter for the trends to come,” says Andrew Ballard, Captain of the Australian National Culinary Team. “Many chefs around the world look to these major culinary events such as the IKA for inspiration on what will be the emerging food trends, state of the art techniques and new and exciting ingredients from around the world.” Australia is competing in February 2024 with not one but two teams, the National and Junior National Team. At the IKA, they will bring their country’s history to the plate. “Australia is blessed with many interesting and truly unique ingredients that we can use to provide some real points of difference in the plate,” says Andrew Ballard. “High quality animal proteins from some of the most remote pristine areas of Tasmania. Using small touches of Australian natives to help elevate otherwise pedestrian ingredients to new heights.” A logistical challenge for the teams is not only the distance to the Olympics site in Stuttgart, but already the current training phase. “Our members are spread across the largest island continent on the planet and in some cases have to fly up to six hours to get to the other coast for practices,” says Andrew Ballard. “We see this as character building and it helps the team to strive in such a way to ensure every training session achieves amazing results.” 

Inspirations for daily work  

Ronny Pietzner

The IKA is a home game for the two German teams, but it is no less exciting – also in terms of culinary delights. “German Cuisine is so rich in flavors and tastes that we are more than happy to present the best out of it in our Olympic menus,” knows Ronny Pietzner, manager of Team Germany. “We aspire to stretch the bow between German specialties and international culinary trends. Our wish is to show the variety and the depth of flavor which can be achieved even during the winter time in Germany.” The Culinary Olympics is the perfect stage to showcase that. “The IKA has always inspired chefs from all over the world for their daily work. The competition is well known for showing refined dishes and special craftsmanship,” says Ronny Pietzner. “The Art of cooking blends with the vision of how modern and healthy the food is supposed to be today. That makes it very challenging but also so exciting.”   

Anita Cheng

The guidelines for the IKA competitions also keep up with the times and are based on current food trends – finds Anita Cheng, manager and coach of the National Culinary Team Hong Kong. “I believe ‘Chef’s Table’ and the inclusion of a plant-based course are reflecting the guest’s change of eating habits,” she says. “However, food trends are not static, and whatever we planned two years ago will not and should not become the new constant. It is the responsibility of the judges and the chef teams to keep themselves abreast of the latest progression or drifts, to learn, to evaluate, to refashion, to decipher, and to integrate these in their design, cooking and judging.” In Stuttgart, the Asian team brings their country’s culinary versatility to the plate. “Hong Kong is an international food city, embracing the Western and Chinese cuisine culture and the best global tastes. That’s exactly what we will be doing at IKA,” reveals Anita Cheng. “It is about harmonizing taste and texture, incorporating local food culture tactfully, and interpretating Western cuisine in a contemporary creative context.” 

In February 2024, National, Junior National and Community Catering Teams from some 40 countries will bring their international flavors, ingredients and techniques to the Stuttgart exhibition center, which will become a mecca for food trends. What exactly will be seen and tasted on the plates remains top secret until the IKA. 

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