Youdale: Culinary students take to world stage

Culinary team member Daniella Germond.
Culinary team member Daniella Germond.

Have you thought about what is next in food innovation? What are the next trends coming at your favourite restaurant? What is going to be the next Pho or Taco revolution? Look no further than the Culinary Olympics going on in Germany this week. Our very own Niagara College is here on the world stage representing Canada, in the Junior/Student level of the competition, against 19 other countries. Today they are up against the likes of Italy, Denmark and Germany for culinary supremacy in the student world. They will compete on two separate days for Olympic Gold with all countries vying to be crowned Olympic Champion and four years of bragging rights.

It is here we see what the world is cooking and what exciting new techniques and preparation methods will dominate the Michelin Star tables of the future. Over 2,000 chefs are gathered here in Erfurt, Germany to battle for medals in many categories of teams and individuals. I have been to four different Olympic events, three of them as manager of Culinary Team Canada’s junior team, and it continues to amaze me where food is going and what is next for our students to learn and absorb for the future.

The pressure of this competition is palpable and visceral in a way that is hard to describe. Many pacing mentors and coaches watching through plexi-glass kitchens in hopes their team pulls of a culinary miracle and come out on top. I am thinking that this looks more like a maternity ward with anxious dads as opposed to coaches and visitors to the event. There is no reason to think this is by chance because these teams put in thousands of hours of work leading to these few days in the fall to put their talents on the line every four years.

This is where we first saw Scandinavia show us their foraging and preserving style of cuisine that has become a dominant force in the top restaurants in the world. We see the technical aspects of molecular cuisine become a normal day in the kitchen, as well we see what equipment and innovation science has provided our budding and experienced white robed warriors. On top of all this technique is the ultimate in support of national ingredients that is illustrated perfectly in our own National Junior Team. The menu consists of Nova Scotia lobster, Atlantic salmon, Alberta beef, Cranberry, blueberry, maple and so many more aspects of Canadian-ingredient based cuisine.

I recommend taking a moment and watching online, or through social media, as our local Niagara College team from The Canadian Food and Wine Institute takes the culinary stage and becomes a part of that future that this event so boldly displays. They can be reached at www.ncjrculinaryteamcanada.ca where you can link to the social feeds and keep up with the daily blogs and videos. The next time you try that special restaurant or even try out a new style of cooking at home remember it most likely hit the plates of the Culinary Olympics as some point in the past.

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Craig Youdale has been in the Food and Beverage industry for three decades as a chef, restauranteur, professor, international competitor and now Dean of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College. His passion for all things food and wine has led him to Niagara to lead the Institute to become the world’s foremost educator in Fermentation Sciences and Culinary Arts.