Hundreds of young chefs from all over the world are inspired to take part in the IKA/Culinary Olympics and the INTERGASTRA, the leading trade fair for the hotel and catering industry in Stuttgart. In this context, we talked to the junior national culinary teams in several countries.
When the culinary world meets at the IKA/Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart in February next year, it will be the very first time for most of the junior chefs. It will be their first international competition – and one that is world-renowned – constituting their first experience in the kitchen on behalf of their country’s junior national team. And, in addition, it is often the first major challenge far away from home – without family, colleagues and the familiar processes of their kitchen.
Participation is key
In most countries, the national teams have already been selected and the preparation processes are in full swing. Right in the middle are the junior national teams from all over the world. Their members qualified based on very different criteria. They were recruited during other competitions, having to win cook offs, pass other tests or were able to convince the decision makers by submitting a great application or showing off their culinary creations.
Raymond Mock of the Canadian team is convinced: “To become a member of a team, you have to be courageous, willing to learn and a good team player. You have to be willing to fully dedicate yourself and you have to want to cook with one aim in mind: winning a gold medal.” And yet, the young talents agree that winning a medal is not all that counts. “What type of medal you win is secondary,” says Kelvin Hui of the Hong Kong team. “It’s all about improving your skills, learning new techniques and enjoying this development.”
Others agree with the young chef: “On the one hand, I want to prove myself and on the other, I want to prove that I’m good at my job. And what is more, I compete for something I attach importance to,” explains Rodrigo Ibañez Rojas from Mexico. “My family, friends, colleagues, teachers, instructors and perhaps, above all Mexico, my country. The country where I was born and which I love.” The young chefs will kick off the competition with great motivation in their hearts. This also holds true for Vojtech Petrzela of the Czech Junior National Team, who expresses what many others feel when he states: “It’s a great honour for me to represent my country in Stuttgart!”
With the passion so characteristic of the youth
Nonetheless: the path to the IKA/Culinary Olympics is quite tough and the preparations demand a lot of dedication from the juniors. They manage to generate the required power and energy from their great passion for the culinary profession, the profession of their dreams. “It is good to know that good work in the kitchen is honoured,” says Aleksandra Dimitrijević from the Serbian team; while Anne Kathrin Zaczyk, the German junior national culinary team’s pastry chef, who has been fascinated by cooking and baking ever since childhood, loves the “creative freedom you enjoy in making guests and customers happy.”
However, without dedication it is impossible to be successful. Working in a team is volunteer work, which means that you have to sacrifice a lot of private time. “For me, being a chef means 100% dedication and passion”, says Tharindu Laskshan Udayanga Ganihi Arachchilage of the U.A.E. junior national team. “We constantly face the challenge to create new dishes and this is what I so appreciate about my profession.” A well-developed passion for good taste also plays its part. “I simply love that special expression guests get on their face when they taste something that really pleases their palate for the first time,” Danna Vu, pastry chef and committed team player of the Swedish junior national team, expresses enthusiastically. “And it is fascinating to watch how individuals come together as a team pursuing the same goal and sharing this great love of food.”
Why should you participate in the IKA/Culinary Olympics?
Read what junior culinary team members from all parts of the world have to say:
“Cooking at the IKA/Culinary Olympics does not only teach us better techniques, but above all it teaches us to be part of a big family!”
Kelvin Hui, Hong Kong
“To compete with others on an international scale, to improve ones skills and to create something in a team of people of the same age is a very special experience.”
Dominik Roider, Switzerland
“It’s wonderful to learn new techniques, build contacts and meet people who share the same passion for something.”
“Eating is a language which everybody speaks, and to know that my work can have an influence on people from different cultures motivates me.”
Raymon Mock, Canada
“I like people who enjoy cooking as much as I do; I like the exchange and to learn from them. I also like to work under pressure and without routine.”
Vojtech Petrzela, Czech Republic
“Chefs are artists who express their personality and memories in their dishes.“
Tiago Silva, Portugal
“To be quite honest, I love everything in connection with cooking: the stress, the company of others, the hard work and to get up early. When I’m in a kitchen, I feel alive, complete and happy. There is just nothing like it.”
Rodrigo Ibañez Rojas, Mexico