Learning from the “Grown-ups” at the IKA On IKA Saturday, the mini chefs stood at the stove in competition kitchen number 17.

150 mini chefs first conquered the stage at the 26th IKA/Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, then the competition kitchen and finally won the hearts of numerous visitors and industry colleagues.

Text Anna Häuser  Photos IKA/Culinary Olympics

Little chefs on a big stage.
Little chefs on a big stage.

The doors opened, Herbert Grönemeyer’s famous song “Zeit, dass sich was dreht” rang out from the speakers and the German teams walked across the stage to the applause of hundreds of chefs and fans from all over the world. The parade of nations was one of the highlights of the opening ceremony of the IKA/Culinary Olympics at the beginning of February. However, the 35 professional chefs in white – together with the members of the German Armed Forces National Culinary Team – were not the only “stars” on the stage that day. 20 “mini chefs” accompanied the teams hand in hand, waving black, red and gold flags and bringing a tear or two to the eyes of the audience in Stuttgart’s ICS International Congress Center. A total of 150 „Miniköche“ aged 10 to 12 traveled from all over Germany for the IKA. “The children, their parents and siblings have been eagerly awaiting this big day for days,” says Susanne Droux, Managing Director of Europa Miniköche. “Even the team leaders of the mini-chef groups are not immune to this big event. After all, it is the emotional start of the global Culinary Olympics, which their little mini chefs can experience up close.” 

Olympic Birthday Party  

With their appearance at the IKA, the mini chefs celebrated a very special birthday: their 35th anniversary. The Europa Miniköche were founded 35 years ago by Jürgen Mädger as a vacation activity for children. Today, 825 children and 50 groups in Germany, Austria and Scotland make up the large Europa Miniköche family. Today, Europa Miniköche gGmbH is a non-profit organization supported by the seven Dehoga state associations of Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia. “The philosophy of the project is to teach children about gastronomic craftsmanship, nutrition and health as well as the appreciation of local food and the environment through local hosts,” says Susanne Droux. “The children process fresh food and learn how to use it to cook delicious, regional dishes. After all, an awareness of healthy eating plays an important role in the development of young people.” 


At the IKA/Culinary Olympics, it wasn’t just the German professional chefs who enjoyed the “mini-support”. All international teams were accompanied by members of the Miniköche as they marched in. “There was great joy among the Ukrainian Junior National Team, which was accompanied by the two Ukrainian mini chefs Danylo and Matvii from Hersbruck,” says Peter Bauer, head of the Hersbruck Miniköche. After an evening of overwhelming impressions and emotional goosebumps, the IKA opening came to an end for the young and old chefs alike and the first day of the competition was upon them.  

Young professionals in kitchen 17  

The children had a lot of fun cooking in the IKA kitchen.
The children had a lot of fun cooking in the IKA kitchen.

While the first teams cooked for medals on IKA Saturday, the kitchen with the number 17 also became a crowd puller: Around a dozen mini chefs prepared four different plated dishes under the gaze of an international audience of experts. “According to members of the jury and participants from various national teams, the kids performed like professionals in this international competition – out of competition, of course,” says Peter Bauer proudly. For the children themselves, it’s all about the experience, the fun and their first contact with the cooking profession. “We’re taking part in the project because we want to cook. Maybe I’ll be a chef one day,” says Matvii from Ukraine, for example. 

The invitations that the young colleagues took home from the IKA showed just how much the mini chefs won the hearts of the gastronomy professionals: The Vatel Club Luxembourg has invited the Miniköche to the 2026 Culinary World Cup. And VKD President Daniel Schade is already looking forward to seeing them again in Stuttgart at the IKA/Culinary Olympics 2028. After a tour of the adjacent Intergastra trade fair and a visit to the Dehoga Baden-Württemberg stand, the 150 mini chefs enjoyed a successful IKA participation and two unforgettable days. This 35th anniversary celebration will probably be remembered by all those involved for a long time to come.  

Selfie time with VKD President Daniel Schade.
Selfie time with VKD President Daniel Schade.
Team Germany and 20 mini chefs at the parade.








About the Miniköche  

Europa Miniköche gGmbH has been running creative cooking workshops with children aged 10 to 12 in catering establishments for 35 years. The project creates visibility and sympathy, it combines its non-profit purpose of nurturing and promoting young people with insights into the hospitality industry training professions and is also a flagship for the participating companies, organizations and regions.  

More information at www.minikoeche.eu  

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