Your browser is out of date. It may not display all features of this websites. We recommend to use one of these browsers or versions Mozila Firefox or Google Chrome

To Top

Career boost for young chefs: These are the most important cooking competitions

By: Reading Time: 7 Minutes

They need to understand their craft and be passionate about their profession. Be creative and team-oriented, but also risk-takers and a bit crazy. Above all, however, they must be the right age to take part in these young chef competitions.

. ThA rush of excitement, cheers, pats on the back. Almost all of us have experienced this feeling before. And that’s exactly why you usually take part in competitions – namely to win. But even if you don’t win, you won’t lose. This applies in particular to chef competitions for young chefs. After all, a lot can happen between preparation and the award ceremony. Young talents gain new experiences and find mentors, surpass their own boundaries and, in some cases, attract international attention.

Next Chef Award Winner and Star chef giving high five on stage

Image: Next Chef Award

KTCHNrebel has taken a close look at all the cooking competitions for young and aspiring professional chefs. And here they are: the most important chef competitions for apprentices and Commis de Cuisine (young chefs who have just completed their training), which can also help you take your career to the next level.

Next Chef Award

It’s not always easy to satisfy both the chef and guests, especially under time pressure. At the Next Chef Award 2024, the 18 young chefs had to overcome additional hurdles and prepare their dishes in front of a live audience and top chefs. These were  such as Paul Ivic (Tian, Vienna), Clara Hunger (Tulus Lotrek, Berlin) or Thomas Martin (Jacobs Restaurant). The six candidates who made it into the final eventually had an hour to cook a dish specified by Johann Lafer. Sounds challenging, but feasible. However, there was no recipe or list of ingredients. There is only a plate and a 15-minute time slot to taste and take notes. In the end, 23-year-old Niklas Herrman from Aramark in Frankfurt came closest to the target with his dish of boiled beef, rhubarb and tomato broth with variations of puntarella. As Next Chef 2024, he will soon be able to launch his own cookbook.

When and where: The next Next Chef Award is expected to take place between March 14 – 18, 2025 during INTERNORGA in Hamburg.

Who is eligible to participate: Young chefs from Germany, Austria and Switzerland who are no older than 26 and have completed vocational training by the start of the competition can apply. The training can be completed in all gastronomic areas, for example in restaurants, system and community catering or catering.

What you need to submit: Among other things, the applicants must provide their personal details, but also explain what the profession means to them and why they want to participate in the Next Chef Award.

Costs: Participation is free of charge.

Jury member Hubert Lafer, of the Next Chef Awards on stage

Image: Next Chef Award

Rookies of the Year

The jury is always impressed by the high level, creativity and professionalism of the participants. These are not chefs who have been in the kitchen for decades. They are rather “rookies”, in other words trainees who are cooking for the first time on a stage in front of an audience with no help from others. If you want to get a glimpse of future greats on the cooking scene now, this chef competition is just the thing for you.

What the talents cook is based on what is in the shopping basket. So, basically, time, products, technology and cost of goods are specified. However, the rookies decide how to use them and in which of the three courses. An experience that will most likely benefit all participants, but will definitely take the winner to Hamburg. The main prize is a 5-day internship at Tim Mälzer’s Bullerei. It includes travel, accommodation, personal coaching, a look behind the scenes and much more.

When and where: The three finalists, selected by a specialist jury, will compete against each other at the Rolling Pin.Convention Austria in Graz on May 13, 2025, one day before the Junge Wilden final (see below).

Who is eligible to participate: Apprentices who are under 21 and in training at the reporting date.

What you need to submit: Complete recipes for each of the three courses. All of the specified products need to be recognizable as main components. Further, participants need to submit a precise recipe calculation for six people, whereby the cost of goods for the menu must not exceed 30 euros per person. Photos of the dishes as well as a photo of the applicant, CV and contact details are also required for a successful application.

Costs: Participation is free of charge.

A camera team films a young chef

Image: Rolling Pin

Junge Wilde

Perhaps the most important rule among the Junge Wilde (young wild ones) is that you shouldn’t take rules all that seriously. Plans are made to be thrown overboard. Only those who are brave and perhaps a little crazy are wild enough for this chef competition. It has already kicked off many impressive careers. Oliver Scheiblauer, for example, who was the first Austrian to complete an internship at El Bulli, is a former winner. Just like Florian Wörgötter, who has been awarded two toques since his participation is another former winner. Or Thomas Penz from Hans Neuner’s Ocean restaurant in Portugal won the competition in the past.

What awaits the future Junge Wilde? Like the participants in the Rookie competition (see above), they are given a set shopping basket filled with certain products and special techniques. Taking and applying those is mandatory for cooking the 3-course menu. It also means the cost of goods for the entire menu may not exceed 30 euros per person. The rest is left to the young chefs and their creativity. Not only are they competing for the coveted title, they are also vying for a cover story in Rolling Pin magazine. Additionally they compete for an internship with one of the best chefs in the world.

When and where: The three finalists from the preliminary final will compete against each other at the Rolling Pin.Convention Austria in Graz on May 14, 2025.

Who is eligible to participate: All chefs under 30 at the cut-off date are eligible to participate.

What you need to submit: The recipe for the 3-course menu with the ingredients and techniques listed in the shopping cart, including precise recipe calculation for 10 people, photos and the full names of the dishes, a printable photo of the applicant with CV and contact details.

Costs: Participation is free of charge.

The jury sits in front of the participants' various plates and is watched by an audience

Image. Next Chef Award

European Young Chef Award

“I congratulate this initiative. It highlights the wealth and diversity of European gastronomy while recognizing the role of chefs in terms of ecology and sustainability,” enthuses Joan Roca. He is the owner of the legendary restaurant El Celler de Can Roca and official ambassador of the European Young Chef Award. Roca is one of the best and most innovative chefs of our time. And he is well aware of the exemplary role he plays as a restaurateur when it comes to environmental protection. This makes him quite the embodiment of what the future European Young Chef should bring. The up-and-coming talents have to think about their own traditions and roots and present classic dishes and ingredients from their region. In the final round, however, the task is to reinterpret them in front of an international jury. For example, the Slovenian Boštjan Volk won the Young Chef Competition last year with his evolution of the traditional Medenjak (Gingerbread) recipe. Using only locally sourced ingredients, he created a technically brilliant and delicious dessert with different textures, without wasting food.

When and where: The participants who win the regional preliminary rulings will compete against each other in the final in Sicily, Italy, from November 27 to 30, 2024.

Who is eligible to participate: Candidates must be between 18 and 26 and have already completed their chef training or will complete it within a year of their nomination.

What you need to submit: The participants are selected by the regional partner group in the European Region of Gastronomy where they come from (this title is awarded by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism to certain cities and regions).

A young female chef prepares the dishes for the award jury

Image: SPYCA

San Pellegrino Young Chef Academy

The San Pellegrino Young Chef Academy, or SPYCA for short, not only seeks for future top chefs. They are ready to help shape to the future of gastronomy. Their dishes must therefore look and taste perfect, as well as convey a clear message. “Bring your future to the table,” is the motto of the renowned competition for young chefs. It will be held for the sixth time this year. The way to the grand finale is via the pre-selection made by ALMA, the world’s leading training center for Italian cuisine. Then, the regional competitions lead directly to Milan. There the 15 best candidates can prepare their signature dishes in front of an international jury.

When and where: The SPYCA competition takes place over two years. Young chefs from 15 regions around the world can currently apply. In autumn, the top ten per world region will compete against each other in a preliminary ruling. In 2025, the world’s best up-and-coming chef will be named at the World Final in Milan.

Who is eligible to participate: Chefs who are no more than 30 years old and have at least one year’s experience as Chef, Sous Chef, Chef de Partie or Commis Chef.

What you need to submit: Application process ran until  June 19, 2024. The young talents had to submit a characteristic dish that bears their culinary signature and reflects the competition’s motto.

Costs: Participation is free of charge.

A young chef stands behind the stove with a pan on fire

Image: Rolling Pin

Springboard FutureChef

The final winning menu consisted of a mushroom-filled chicken ballotine with caramelized cauliflower, fondant potatoes, purple broccoli, butternut pumpkin and tarragon jus. The dessert was a deconstructed tiramisu made from cannoli, chocolate ganache and coffee jelly. And the young talent who cooked these dishes in the final in two hours and 45 minutes in front of star chefs such as Adam Handling, Chantelle Nicholson or Graeme Cheevers? Reese Ventura, 15, student at St. Philomena’s Catholic School for Girls in London. She prevailed against 13,000 young people from 515 schools.

For 25 years now, the FutureChef school cooking program has been supporting young people who want to get a foothold in the gastronomy industry. They teach them how to cook, help them to develop their skills and provide them with mentors. In Reese’s case, this was no less than the chef of the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane, Franky Fernandes. A total of more than 225,000 young people have already benefited from this program. And Reese’s journey has only just begun. As the winner, she will continue to be supported. She will receive development and training opportunities, as well as the opportunity to publish her recipes.

When and where: The winner of the 25th FutureChef was chosen in London in March 2024. The 2026 final will probably also take place in London in March.

Who is eligible to participate: Children and adolescents between 12 and 16 from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland who have not yet started their cooking education.

What you need to submit: Registration takes place via the respective school. The first cooking competition is also held in the school. This is followed by local and regional preliminary decisions and ultimately the final in London.

A chef preparing his plate, a jury member watching him in the background

Image: SPYCA

The future of gastronomy has already begun. And it will be shaped by the young chefs who are actively working on it. And who knows maybe you are also taking part in one of the cooking competitions for young chefs mentioned here. In any case, they give the industry the opportunity to discover new talent in one of these competitions. We look forward to seeing you as a participant in one of the chef competitions. And maybe we can even congratulate you on your victory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Food Management