Meetings & Events

IKA Culinary Olympics – New Zealand’s bid for Gold!

One can’t separate food and travel. They perfectly complement each other. Food to me is about being original and staying true to cuisine. Having reviewed restaurants around the world, it’s surprising sometimes how the littlest guy on the block puts his soul on the plate with simplicity and fresh ingredients creating food for remembrance and how some big restaurant names fail to get this basic idea right by trying to be everything to everyone. But one big pop up restaurant this year will be dishing out a feast most foodies can only dream of.

With over 2,000 chefs from 50 countries, turning 20,000 eggs, 1 ton of meat, 1.2 tons of fish and 4,600 kg of vegetables into 7,000 fresh menus, the International Culinary Art Exhibition also known as the IKA/Culinary Olympics will be the biggest restaurant in the world from 22-25 October this year. With the 2016 motto of ‘Cooking Unlimited – come, see, wonder and taste’, the event will welcome over 24,000 guests from around the world turning 18 glass kitchens into a Mecca for foodies. It will be a place to show up and be seen.

The NZ Chefs Fonterra Olympic Squad

Held every four years in the German town of Erfurt, the IKA/Culinary Olympics is just that – the Olympic Games of Cookery where every menu and every ingredient exudes freshness, creativity and ingenuity. With the first event held in 1900, IKA/Culinary Olympics has attracted national teams from across the globe to compete and be Olympic champions of cooking by showcasing their mastery and skills to a panel of acclaimed judges and the world’s public.
The stakes are high too. Participation in the IKA/Culinary Olympics is at a national level where countries are represented by participating chef teams. Winning gold in the IKA/Culinary Olympics means winning gold in the Olympic Games. An event far too important for a country like New Zealand where inbound tourism is the top export earner to be absent for 28 years.

The last time New Zealand participated in the Culinary Olympics was in 1988. It’s a costly affair to participate in the culinary Olympics and from the point teams and menus are announced to the event, preparation, administrative and logistic costs can be anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000.

But thanks to the sponsorship backing of New Zealand dairy heavyweight Fonterra, this dream is now reality. New Zealand culinary team, ‘The NZ Chefs Fonterra Olympic Squad’ is mounting a challenge at the 2016 Culinary Olympics.
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Director of Global Food Service – Fonterra, Grant Watson says it’s a fantastic opportunity to support the New Zealand chefs and food industry. “For the New Zealand foodservice business this sponsorship helps to support the industry that we are part of, and passionate about. This is about the New Zealand team flying the flag on an international stage, amongst their food industry peers, and recognising their journey and story back home in New Zealand. Although our growth strategy for foodservice focuses on Asia, Greater China, Australia and New Zealand, we are very pleased to be supporting and celebrating the New Zealand Culinary Olympic Team at the Culinary Olympics held in Germany later this year.”

Ika Culinary Olympics 2012 showpiece

Continental Director – Pacific Rim for Worldchefs, Murray Dick says Worldchefs is proud to rally behind New Zeal
and to compete at this level.“It’s a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand team to travel to Erfurt which is a glorious place and to compete in a glamourous event such as the Culinary Olympics. It’s a big ask of everyone when it comes to the Culinary Olympics due to the distance, the costs involved, practicing eventually preforming at a venue that is so new and different to our regions in New Zealand but the New Zealand team reflects the calibre, resilience and are very capable to pull off a star performance. And there is all possibility that they can make the top ten teams of the competition this year.”

IKA/Culinary Olympics 2016 is going to be the biggest in the history of the event. Jennifer Zimmermann from the Association of German Chefs says, “Sales for the restaurant of nations have been going exceptionally well this year. With over 2,100 sold menu tickets the IKA/Culinary Olympics 2016 have already exceeded the result of advance sales figures of the last Culinary Olympics 2012. From 72 available menus 21 are already sold out!” New Zealand menus for the event on 25th October are also sold out.
Seasoned campaigners Australia are looking forward to seeing New Zealand in Germany this year. Patrick O’Brien, team manager of the Australia National Youth Team says it is great to have New Zealand back on the competition floor.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to learn that New Zealand is back after 28 years in the Culinary Olympics and they have progressed and eventually got themselves to this level. It is also great to learn that the New Zealand food industry is supporting and this is a great platform to promote New Zealand as a culinary destination and to promote New Zealand produce.”
President of The Australian Culinary Federation National Office Inc, Neil Abrahams feels although they are competitors at the Culinary Olympics, it’s good to have New Zealand back and the region strongly represented at the Olympics.

“Success at the Culinary Olympics eventually comes down to preparation, good lead up and the support behind the team. It’s a tough event to prepare for and it gets tougher when you get to Germany but surely with the high calibre of New Zealand participating chefs and NZ Chefs management, they’ll do well in the competition. Although we are competitors on the floor, we are from the same region and have each other’s backs.”
Judge of Judges’ and Chairman of the Culinary Competition Committee at World Chefs, Gert Klotzke has given a favourable opinion on the culinary creations of the NZ Olympic Squad travelling to Erfurt, Germany to compete in the Culinary Olympics.

Ika Culinary Olympics showpeice 2012

Gert was in New Zealand for the first time to judge this year’s Nestlé Toque d’Or competition and is one of the most acclaimed chefs in the modern culinary world. An individual who has devoted his career to push towards excellence in all things culinary. Under his leadership, the Swedish culinary team won back to back in the Culinary Olympics. As Chairman of the Culinary Competition Committee he sets policy and procedures and implements strategy for culinary competitions to provide better structure and raising the bar. He is also a promoter of Swedish cuisine and is formal advisor to the Finnish Culinary Olympics team. Harmeet Sehgal of NZ Business Traveller caught up with Gert to talk about his first visit to New Zealand, judging Nestlé Toque d’Or and the NZ Culinary Olympic Squad.
“I’m judging Nestlé Toque d’Or for the first time in New Zealand and I’m impressed with the high level of competing that I have seen with the young chefs. They are well organised, following hygiene rules and demonstrated good techniques”, Gert said.

Gert
While here to judge Nestlé Toque d’Or, he also provided his opinion on the preparation of the NZ Culinary Olympic Squad.Around the hot preparation, Gert says, “I was impressed with the dinner on the awards night which was a sample of the dishes which would be part of the menu. The hot kitchen team was quite resilient and put up a great dinner for 200 people with the limited facilities they had to prepare it. The Lamb and Venison was very well prepared.”

Gert says competing in the Olympics is a process and the most important element of that process is the people that have be together as a team for an extended period of time. “Teams are usually together for four years, competing as a team in various competitions around the world and finally leading into the Olympics. It’s this team bonding and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses that is the final ingredient that contributes towards a winning recipe at the Culinary Olympics. Team members need to like each other and have a unified approach to the plan. Not to discount that things happen and there are always contingencies one has to be prepared for them but in the competition year these need to be minimised as much as possible.”

Gert is a fan of New Zealand produce specially Lamb and Venison and says European restaurants go for New Zealand produce whenever they get a chance. He was also impressed with the top quality Avocadoes in New Zealand. However, logistics of getting New Zealand produce is a costly affair and it gets prohibitive at times.

Associate Minister of Tourism, Paula Bennett said, “New Zealand is well-known for its stunning scenery, but our restaurant and café scene is also top class. The Culinary Olympics sound like a great opportunity to boost the international reputation of our stunning wine and food. Tourism New Zealand markets our food and wine as a key part of what it means to experience New Zealand’s people, culture and landscape. This helps build a story around the different experiences on offer, which is part of our strategy to attract more visitors during the shoulder seasons.
The Major Events Development Fund, administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, invests in New Zealand-based major events. However, the Government does not currently have a mechanism through which teams like this are funded. Congratulations to the team and I wish them every success!”

IKA/Culinary Olympics will be held in Erfurt/Germany from 22 October – 25 October 2016.

Images: VKD/Germany