For five days, the culinary equivalent of the Olympics puts chefs from 54 countries to the ultimate test as they vie for gold in a competition where national pride is at stake and victors take home bragging rights that last four years.
The IKA World Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany is billed as the oldest competition of its kind in the world with a tradition that dates back to 1900 in Germany. Every four years, chefs are put on the chopping block as they try to pull off the performance of their lifetime inside a veritable pressure cooker.
Their gastronomic hurdles? A hot, three-course meal prepared in under five hours that can feed 110 people; a 'cold' buffet-type table laden with a complete meal prepared beforehand and judged wholly on presentation; and dessert pastries.
New this year is the addition of another category altogether: live vegetable carvings.
Maestros with knives will have two hours to chisel a pumpkin – a compulsory component of the competition – and three other vegetables of their own choice.
Also new this year is the elimination of individual table décor, which in past competitions proved costly and cumbersome for chefs traveling far distances. Instead, all pieces will be presented on the same pre-defined table surface bearing the IKA logo.
This year’s edition is set to be bigger than the last, when 40 nations and 1,200 chefs participated in 2008.
Despite its long history as the one of the oldest competitions in the world, the IKA World Culinary Olympics is perhaps less prestigious than the biennial Bocuse d’Or culinary cookoff thanks to the star power of its founder French chef titan Paul Bocuse.
The next Bocuse d’Or is set to take place in January 2013 in Lyon.
Opening ceremonies for the IKA World Culinary Olympics kick off October 5 while the culinary games start October 6 and run through October 10 in Erfurt, Germany.