Held every four years, the Culinary Olympics now being held in Erfurt, Germany in October 2016 are the world’s biggest competition for the food industry. The first Olympics were organised in 1900 and in the previous competition in 2012, there were 2,000 chefs from 54 countries. There are different categories in the Culinary Olympics in which the world’s best chefs compete in making food. This is the first time that Finland is represented in the catering series.
The members of the Fazer Culinary Team are the top chefs of Fazer Food Services and they work in Fazer’s contract restaurants in companies and organisations in Finland. The team has been training for this competition for the last one and a half years. There are eight chefs in the Fazer Culinary Team, but in the official team in the competition there will be four: team captain Mika Pesonen, Juha Aalto, Reko Riikonen and Sami Toropainen. The other members of the team are Lilli Jyräs, Teemu Hokkanen, Tapio Bergström and Matti Tikka. The team manager is Karri Käki.
“We’ve worked hard and there are just a few finishing touches to be made. There are a total of 20 teams from around the world in our category and some of these teams are veterans, so our target of gold is very challenging indeed. However, if we hit the spot in every area, our goal is reachable. The feeling within the team is good and morale is high. We will use our position as underdog to our advantage and we will demonstrate why we are proud of the Finnish food culture, our fantastic ingredients and chefs,” says team captain Mika Pesonen.
After the summer, the team has concentrated on their performance in the competition: In the catering category of the Olympics, the actual competition is making lunch for 150 people. The menu has not changed since May, now we are just polishing our performance. The lunch comprises a soup, two main dishes, one vegetable dish, side dishes, a salad buffet and a dessert. There is a time limit of five hours for the preparation. The allowable cost per portion is around five euros. The ingredients and the food are to reflect the food culture of the team’s own country.
The members of the Fazer Culinary Team have prepared for this competition by training regularly under the guidance of the best coaches possible as well with real customers and individually. All the competitors have regular day jobs. Also taking part in the Culinary Olympics are the Swedish Fazer Culinary Team as well as Finland’s national team, the Culinary Team of Finland and there has been cooperation between the teams in preparing for the competition.
In addition to food making, a lot of other things have been done, too. The logistics have to be planned carefully, as a kitchen’s worth of metal and part of the ingredients are packed in a refrigerated lorry that will go to Germany by road. A flight has been found for the main ingredient of the fish dish, the sufficiency of the electric supply has been calculated, the assembly and dismantling of the kitchen has been practised and the team has designed decorations and elements to reinforce the Finnish mindscape. The portions have been photographed and recipe folders with their nutrition calculations have been completed at the beginning of autumn.
“We are looking forward to October’s Olympics and we are particularly proud that it is Fazer’s team that is going to be the first catering team to represent Finland. Four years ago when we made the decision to participate, we couldn’t have imagined the amount of support and interest that the project has generated,” says , Director of Gastronomy and Product Development at Fazer Food Services.
“Fazer Food Services will continue to support competition, thus ensuring the continuous development of expertise in our food services, which is a benefit for the whole company, but first and foremost for our customers, of course. So fingers crossed and all the best for the competition!”
Watch a video of the team: