Canada’s Culinary Elite Shine at 2016 Culinary Olympics in Germany

Photo By Luke Gillett

Canada’s National and Junior National teams took their A-game to the 2016 IKA Olympiade der Koche in Erfurt, Germany in October, collecting wins in a number of categories. Commonly known as the Culinary Olympics, the international event — held every four years — attracted 1,600 of the best chefs, pastry chefs and culinary artists from 59 nations for a four-day competition.

This year’s competition featured 30 national teams, 20 junior national teams, 20 community cooking teams, 52 regional teams and hundreds of individual competitors in the categories of hot kitchen, culinary art, pastry art, as well as vegetable, bread, cheese and butter carvings/creations. Organized by the German Chef’s Association, Verband der Köche Deutschlands, this event — alongside the trade show component, Inoga — sees more than 25,000 visitors gather to watch the national teams battle it out in 18 glass kitchens to produce the three-course lunches and dinners, for which guests can purchase tickets. Canada first sent a National team to the Culinary Olympics in 1972 and, in 1984, Canada was crowned the World Champion for the first time.

This year, the Canadian contingent included a National team from British Columbia, the Junior National team from Niagara as well as six regional teams and some individual competitors.

The National team competed in the three sections: culinary arts and pastry arts cold display, as well as the hot kitchen competition, “Restaurant of Nations.” A maximum of 100 points are awarded for both the culinary arts and pastry arts sections with 25 points available in the four categories; presentation and innovation, composition, correct professional preparation and serving arrangement. Medals are awarded with the following point score: 90 to 99.99 points for a gold medal; 80 to 89.99 points for a silver medal; 70 to 79.99 points for a bronze medal; and 60 to 69.99 points for a diploma.

For the “Restaurant of Nations,” each team prepares a three-course menu for 110 guests at a cost of $80 per ticket. The Canadian National team dinner consisted of a starter course of butter-poached sturgeon, puffed amaranth, side-stripe prawn press, sun-choke foam, cured guanciale, green chickpeas and nasturtium-spinach purée; a main course of organic beef tenderloin, sweetbread-chanterelle terrine, braised daikon, salsify, sauerkraut purée, beet, potato barrel, creamed leek and pomme dauphine with natural jus; and a dessert of fondant chocolate car, pâté de fruit, raspberry semifreddo, macaroon, pistachio crisp, trou de beignet and dulce de leche.

The Canadian National team scored a gold medal for its culinary arts, a silver for the pastry arts and a gold for “Restaurant of Nations” — giving the team an overall silver medal in the final standings.

CCFCC president, Donald Gyurkovits, was never far from the cold displays or the “Restaurant of Nations,” offering words of encouragment to the competitors. “The road to Erfurt was an exciting path. The journey was four years of dedication from the chefs, the management and our partners. The whole team did Canada and Canadian cuisine proud,” says Gyurkovits.

Both of Canada’s Master Chefs were in Erfurt. Jud Simpson was one of five tasting judges for the “Restaurant of Nations” competition and was also instrumental in the coaching of the Junior National team. Along with Tobias MacDonald, Bruno Marti, undoubtedly one of the most respected chefs in Canada, coached the National team.

The Junior National Culinary Olympic team from Niagara, Ont. was headed by Craig Youdale, a veteran of the Culinary Olympics, with two main coaches — chef professors Avi Hollo and Olaf Mertens. “I was absolutely thrilled with the team’s performance. They gave their best in the kitchen this week,” says Youdale, dean of Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute. “It was the best buffet I’ve ever seen them do and it was probably the best hot run I’ve ever seen them do.”

The edible buffet featured finger foods, a cold-buffet platter for 12 people, a hot main course to be prepared in front of customers (live-cooking) and a dessert. The team was awarded a gold medal for its efforts, which was served to the Swedish Junior National team (defending 2012 champions).

“The new category for the Junior National team, the edible buffet, was especially successful,” says Andreas Becker, president of the German Chef’s Association. “For the first time in 116 years, the Junior National teams didn’t prepare a cold-plate presentation, but prepared an edible buffet that could be tasted and enjoyed by judges and guests alike. That is where the IKA is headed. We want to be more sustainable with our resources and give guests a special highlight to look forward to.”

At the “Restaurant of Nations – Young Chefs” competition, the Junior National team was awarded a silver medal for its three-course menu for 60 people — stunning in terms of appearance, taste, texture. The menu included a starter course of maple-spiced salmon, compressed lobster with pear foam, tender greens and grapefruit caviar with a kale sauce; a main course of beef striploin and mushroom terrine with cauliflower smear, sautéed vegetables, madeira sauce and beef-cheek tortellini with squash purée; and warm caramel-apple cake, apple dome with ice-wine apple cheesecake and lemongrass sorbet for dessert. The competition reflected the current state of the industry, with many chefs using modern ingredients, techniques and equipment such as sous-vide machines, Thermomix, liquid nitrogen and the spherificator, just to name a few.

The six regional Canadian teams again showed the world the culinary strength that makes up this nation. Each team was judged on two parts of its cold display — culinary arts and pastry arts.

The team from Prince Edward Island (The Culinary Institute of Canada), competing for the fourth time since 2004, won a gold medal in a professional level of the competition and placed fourth overall. Culinary Team Humber garnered a gold medal for its efforts, while the Ontario Culinary Team was awarded a silver medal and the Golden Horseshoe Culinary Team, Trillium Chefs Canada and Culinary Team Nova Scotia won a bronze medal for their combined culinary arts and pastry arts scores.

The final awards ceremony was held in the Erfurt Messe, a large hall where the “Restaurant-of-Nations” competition had taken place. This year, Sweden, the 2012 national champion, was knocked out of the top three positions with Singapore placing first, followed by Finland in second, and Switzerland in third place.

The Community Catering section of the competition was won by Fazer Culinary team Finland, with Fazer Culinary team Sweden coming in second and Nationale Catering team Denmark, securing third spot.

The National Junior team from Sweden, defended its title, followed by Switzerland in second place and Norway in third. Regional team winners included the Stockholm Culinary Team (gold), Skåne Kulinar (silver) and Amber Alliance from Lithuania (bronze). “Once again the Canadian culinary world got together to show its products and talents to the world,” says Marti. “The words that come to mind — respectful and humble. [The teams] showed great professional skills in the different categories, juniors, regional and, naturally, the National team that represented all chefs and cooks in Canada. They earned two gold and one silver medal, their dedication and strive for perfection was visible in every dish. As a long-standing coach, I can only say thank you Team Canada members for your relentless work, not just here in Erfurt but for four years in the making, with raising a large part of the costs through fundraisers and some incredible partners — a team for all Canadians to be proud of”.

For many teams and individuals, sights are now set on the 2020 Culinary Olympics. For a detailed score sheet of the final results for the National, Junior National, Regional teams and individual competitors, visit

Volume 49, Number 9 
John Placko is the Culinary Director; Modern Culinary Academy & Powder for Texture.

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