A group of NAIT students has returned from Germany with more silver than they left with after competing in the IKA Culinary Olympics.
The all-female team spent two weeks in Stuttgart preparing for and competing in “the oldest, largest and most diverse international culinary arts competition in the world,” according to the World Association of Chefs Societies website.
“It’s been a year and a half of practice and training and dwindling down the team,” said Crystal Higgins, team captain and chef.
“So when the time came for us to get on the plane, it was surreal.”
The team consisted of seven members, including four cooks, a dishwasher, a front of house server and a support student. They competed in the Community Catering and Military Teams category.
“All these other teams in our categories were either professional caterers or military teams,” said Suzanne Boulet, the front of house server for the team.
“As a group of students, it was intimidating to be up against people who do this for a living, this is their everyday.”
“It’s fantastic for really any team that goes,” said Troy Lymburner, a culinary arts instructor at NAIT.
“These ladies should be very, very proud of themselves for stepping up and doing a fantastic job.”
There were several unexpected challenges for the team during the competition, including ingredients as part of a three course meal for 120 people.
“Part of that meal was a salad bowl and in that salad bowl we had originally prepared kale for the salad, but kale season is no longer on in Germany, so we had to substitute a few ingredients here and there,” said Lymburner.
“So there was a little bit of running around, a little bit of scrambling, a little bit of changing in the menu.”
Another hurdle they faced was that some of the equipment they expected to have was not available to them, which they found out when they got to the event kitchen.
“It was five hours of hard cooking and an hour and a half of hard service,” said Higgins. “Having our feedback from our jurors and the judges and knowing that they felt we cooked with love and they love the flavors of our food… we left feeling really, really good.”
“It wasn’t until the next day when we’re on the train in Munich and we heard that we got silver that it would really kind of hit home or like, ‘Wow, no, we didn’t do just good, we crushed it.'”
The way the event was scored meant that the NAIT team had enough points to reach the threshold for a silver medal, along with three other teams. There were 21 teams competing in the same category.