Yes we have an Olympic team of chefs. Two of them, actually – a senior and a junior team who will be proudly representing South Africa at The IKA Culinary Olympics, the oldest and most prestigious global culinary competition, which is taking place from 22 to 25 October 2016 in Erfurt, Germany. A total of 32 countries will have six hours to prepare their three-course menus to serve 110 people under the scrutiny of thousands of spectators and international judges from around the world.
South Africa first sent a team overseas to compete in the Culinary Olympics in 1980; bringing home five individual gold medals and winning fourth place overall in the hot kitchen competition. For the first time ever in 2000, the South African National Culinary Team or Culinary Team South Africa as it is now known, comprised a wholly South African born and trained team.
Throughout the culinary team’s history, renowned chefs have been a part of the team, including the late Bill Gallagher, Heinz Brunner, Manfred Muellers, Bruce Burns, Andrew Atkinson, Garth Shnier, Paul Hartmann, David Higgs and Garth Stroebel.
South Africa will be among the 32 countries showcasing their talents, skills and culinary specialities to the world in October. Our aspiring team of seven chefs have been hard at work practising the preparation of their chosen dishes which they will present to esteemed judges from around the globe. The IKA Culinary Olympics comprises two categories: the Hot Kitchen menu and the Cold Table display.
The teams will have six hours to prepare their three-course menus which will be served to 110 people in the Restaurant of Nations on 24 October.
Renowned chef and past team South African National Culinary Team member, David Higgs, Chef Patron of Marble Restaurant is the team’s hot kitchen advisor.
The Culinary Team brought back a gold medal in the Hot Kitchen section in 2008 – the first gold to be won by South Africa in 16 years. In the same year, the South African National Culinary Team was awarded the official South African team status by the Department of Arts and Culture’s Bureau of Heraldry.
The 2016 South African National Olympic Culinary Team have benefitted from the wealth of knowledge of their cold kitchen advisor Garth Shnier, past team member and current Nodal Executive Chef of Sandton Sun, Sandton Convention Centre and InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton and member of the World Association of Chefs Societies Culinary Guidelines Committee. The team have created 29 intricate dishes that make up what is known as the Cold Table, consisting of various categories, including a five-course menu, tapas, festive platter, friandises, four desserts, three starters, an ovo-lacto vegetarian three course menu, showpiece and more. The Cold Table is an overwhelmingly impressive demonstration of the techniques and talents of the chefs represented on our team.
The Cold Table dishes are painstakingly prepared in intricate detail and with exacting precision. The food is coated with aspic, a gelatine-like substance, to preserve it for the duration of the display and to enhance the colour and visual appeal of the dishes. The Cold Table is a showcase of chefs’ skills, patience and precision. This presentation is the personification of the science of culinary art, which tests old world skills presented in new world style.
This category of the competition is judged on presentation, composition of the plate, practicality of the dish for the restaurant environment, aesthetic appeal of the dish, quality of aspic work and whether the dish appears as described. It is an extremely exacting component of the Culinary Olympics and one that tests the skills of chefs unlike any other. Our young chefs will be exposed to cutting edge techniques and cuisines from around the world and will return to share this knowledge with their peers. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest benefits of international culinary competitions.
Through consultation with technical experts in the field of gelatine and aspic, the 2016 team has broken new ground in the chemistry and technique of aspic. Most gelatine in the world is used in bulk food manufacturing applications, but its versatility is only bound by a chef’s imagination. Gelita offered some valuable advice to the South African National Culinary Team on their cold table presentation with regard to the aspic work.
The South African Culinary Team Cold Table is to be presented to the IKA Culinary Olympics international jury on our allocated exhibition day, which for South Africa will be Saturday 22 October. The theme of South Africa’s Cold Table this year is ‘The Bounty of the Earth’, reflecting South Africa’s rich natural resources and mining history, as well as the abundant bounty of ingredients from land and sea. Each team member was asked to choose a gemstone to represent the dishes they will be presenting, with the chocolate showpiece of a mineshaft and traditional mining equipment completing the picture.
Find out more about the team here