“We – Future Chefs” final – trainees demonstrate fine culinary skills

What a brilliant final! Excitement reached fever pitch in Berlin on 3 November as the distinguished jury for the “We – Future Chefs” competition announced the winning team. Emma Friedrichs and Ben Bednarz won a cultural and culinary trip to Israel after serving up a first-class menu.

“We – Future Chefs” final – trainees demonstrate fine culinary skills

The two trainees of the team known as the “Kieler Sprotten” (Kiel Sprats) looked at each other in virtual disbelief as Hila Engelhard, Head of Economic and Scientific Cooperation at the Embassy of Israel in Berlin, revealed the winners of the final cook-off of the very first “We – Future Chefs” trainee contest. The young cooks succeeded in creating a culinary bridge to Israel by presenting a harmonious combination of regional and international ingredients. Their starter of chickpeas and kale was followed by a main comprising lentils and catfish with marsh samphire. The duo’s three-course offering was then completed by a delicious dessert of locally sourced quinces paired with persimmon and dates.

Alexander Hochradel, who was attending the final round on behalf of the competition’s sponsors, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), was amongst the first to give congratulations. He expressed his appreciation, enthusiasm and gratitude towards all parties involved, reserving special praise for the skilful trainee teams, for the prestigious jury and for Brillat-Savarin Vocational School, which was outstanding in its role as host. BIBB’s Director of Research Professor Hubert Ertl delivered a welcoming address, during which he was visibly impressed by the ability and commitment displayed by the trainees and by the assemblage of culinary art and expertise at the “We – Future Chefs” final. Indeed, the feats on display were all the more remarkable given the fact that the restrictions occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic had been enormous for this training occupation in particular. Further commendatory and congratulatory messages were received in virtual form from the Israeli Ambassador S.E. Jeremy Issacharoff and from Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Rachel (BMBF).

The high standards achieved by the young chefs, who have not yet completed their training time, also fired the enthusiasm of the jury, whose members included Daniel Schade, President of the German Chefs’ Association (VKD e. V.) and National Team Coach Elisabeth.

“I was also extremely impressed by the meticulous approach. The handouts produced by these young people to accompany their pitches included a highly detailed written presentation of their menu and even contained drawings showing exactly what the plate would look like afterwards.”

Daniel Schade

The eight teams of trainees were required to put forward pitches on the first day of the final. They were judged on creativity and obvious professional expertise. A further and crucial criteria was just how contemporary and feasible their dishes were within the context of a high-end menu. The jury was also especially interested in seeing the necessary degree of “self-confidence” from the cooks that indicates they are truly passionate about their menus. Daniel Schade stated: “...they all exuded this enthusiasm. They invested an unbelievable amount of passion, energy and work. This was revealed in all eight pitches.”

The ability of the teams to cooperate as professional colleagues was particularly remarkable. There were no signs of conventional rivalry. The competitors were prepared to help each other, and the first to hug and congratulate the winners were the second-placed team “Oachkatzlschwoaf” (Bavarian dialect for squirrel trail), who were delighted to receive a set of knives as their prize.

As events unfolded in Berlin, Israeli trainees were taking part in a similar type of contest in Haifa. The two competitions were linked via live stream in order to create a “culinary bridge” and a sense of virtual networking. In Israel, victory was secured by a team from the Dan Gourmet School in Tel Aviv.

Support programme provided added value

The two days of the final in Berlin did not merely centre on the cooking itself. Helpful knowledge about products and the profession itself were also on offer. Dr. Michael Scharp from the Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment (IZT Berlin) gave a presentation on climate-friendly and energy-efficient cooking in order to demonstrate how it is possible to generate lower levels of CO2, to achieve more sustainable nutrition and to deal with foodstuffs in a more considered way. An extra treat was enjoyed by the six teams which did not make it through to the final cook-off. They had the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes at Rutz, Berlin’s only three-star Michelin restaurant, and were able to glean valuable information on kitchen processes and on the kind of restaurant concept found at the very highest level. Such enriching impressions are not normally available during most trainees’ everyday routines.

Modernisation of the occupation of cook

BIBB is currently collaborating with a group of experts and working in conjunction with the ministries responsible and with the social partners to undertake a revising procedure for the seven dual training occupations in the hotel and restaurant sector. Modernised training regulations are expected to enter into force on 1 August 2022. Daniel Schade, newly elected President of the German Chefs’ Association (VKD e. V.) is also devoting considerable efforts towards further developing the occupation of cook in a future-oriented manner which takes greater account of innovation and digitalisation.

A solid foundation

Last but not least, the top chefs who lent their support to “We – Future Chefs” also ensured that both the competition and its competitors were accorded a special degree of esteem. As well as displaying a clear commitment to the importance of proper vocational education and training, they used their own styles, experiences and backgrounds to enrich the programme for the final event in a multitude of different ways.

All my current skills are the result of what I learned during my training.

Julia Komp

Jury member Julia Komp, once Germany’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, gave a live demonstration of how to add an Asian touch to traditional christmas venison and transform the dish into modern haute cuisine. The young chefs from the various teams had the possibility to give her a hand.

The Berlin-based Michelin-star cook Gal Ben Moshe, who has Israeli roots, was on hand to offer an extremely authentic insight into the world of elite cookery. He spoke about his journey to becoming one of Germany’s leading celebrity chefs and described the challenges and ambitions embraced by the owner of a Michelin star restaurant. There were also a few more tongue-in-cheek tips dealing with matters such as how those seeking a life in the hospitality business should go about finding the right partner.

Jury member René Frank, formerly a World Skills Gold Medal Winner (Helsinki 2005), is chef and owner at coda in Berlin, the very first two-star Michelin establishment in the world to be entirely devoted to desserts. His kitchen relies on natural sweeteners only – working without refined sugar – with own chocolate manufacturing. Thus, René brought his international experience to bear and was able to broaden the horizons of the jury during the final tasting by subjecting the processing of the products to particular scrutiny.

Michael Haupt, awarded as Trainer of the Year, was another jury member providing a valuable input. Haya Molcho, one of Israel’s highest profile female chefs, added to the great atmosphere at the final in Berlin by calling in a motivational video greeting.