31 July 2023
Germany’s young chefs get a taste for digital competition
How do you assess dishes digitally, when the plate of food and the judge may be hundreds of kilometres apart?
WorldSkills Germany faced a challenge with their National Skills Competition of Young Chefs, organized with the Regional Association of Chefs Lower Saxony. Four of the five competition modules were digital - hence the challenge. The solution was to design them in a way that would prepare participants for the cooks’ apprenticeship certification exam, but also demonstrate their skills with online tests or self-made videos.
This new way of thinking was embraced by instructors, says Thorben Grübnau, Vice President North of the German Chefs’ Association, WorldSkills Germany Expert and initiator and driving force behind the competition.
“Trainers approached me and thanked me for the fact that the structure of the Competition had finally given them impulses on how to implement the topic of digitalisation in training,” he says.
"The competition thrives on the high standard of the examinations and thus generates a visible added value for the qualitative training of skilled workers.”
At the start of the year, 40 young chefs registered for what would be the first National Skills Competition of Young Chefs. Over 20 then battled through the preliminary round of four digital-only modules.
Only then did the final seven compete face to face in the final.
“With this kind of competition - digital and analogue - it was our concern to keep participation low-threshold and at the same time create a great added value for the participants," says Grübnau.
The challenge for training and recruiting a skilled workforce is to “Make young people enjoy their jobs and at the same time give them the feeling that you are working with them on their strengths and weaknesses and are there to give them advice,” he says.
“With the principle of ‘learning in Competition’ in the form of the National Competition for Young Chefs, we enable precisely this unique professional and personal development of young chefs."
The format of the competition allowed the young chefs to get feedback after each module, learning where they had lost points and how they could improve.
Online tasks included creating a main dish from a shopping basket of ingredients, using a smartphone for food photography, cutting up a guinea fowl and being able to carry out a conversation in simple English - an essential skill for international Competitions.
The final challenge was to cook a main course for eight people. Participants were only informed on site that two of the eight judges were children, so they had to spontaneously prepare two children’s dishes from the available ingredients.
The winner was 22-year-old Lennart Zankl from Lübeck, who is completing a course in food management.
“The pressure during the final was enormous. That was the first time for me to experience something like that,” he said. “I am a little proud of myself, but I am also happy about all the experience I have gained here.