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From the kitchen to the stage: The world’s best chefs compete in these chef competitions

By: Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Stage instead of kitchen. Cooking in front of thousands of people. You’re judged by a top-class jury. Whoever takes part in a cooking competition needs nerves of steel. After all, in the end you’re not only serving up a little masterpiece, but also yourself on a platter. In these chef competitions, you go head to head with the crème de la crème of top chefs.

Polite words take time. Mistakes as well. With each plate dumped, you also throw away a little piece of your soul. That’s why every move in the kitchen has to be spot on and everything has to be planned down to the smallest detail. The profession of top chef is undoubtedly one of the most challenging out there. So why voluntarily turn up the pressure and get up on stage to cook live in front of an audience and a tough jury? Because nowhere else can you go to your limits in this way and prove to the whole world – and yourself – what you can really do.

Got a taste for it? Then these are the most important chef competitions for top chefs.

A chef taking part in the Chef of the Year competition and preparing a dish.

Image: Erik Witsoe

Chef of the year

The Allianz Arena in Munich is known for its steamy and heated atmosphere. However, this is usually because of soccer players and their fans. Not in May 2024 when the iconic competition arena becomes venue for the renowned “Chef of the Year” competition. It is considered a career stepping stone for up-and-coming chefs in German-speaking countries. This event is much more than a live cooking competition in front of a – literally – star-studded jury. Besides the chef competition, there are also master classes and workshops, as well as a sales fair where the latest trends and products from the gastronomy industry are presented. Another highlight is the Chef of the Year kitchen party held on the evening before the competition. A total of six teams will enter the final, which takes place in Bonn on October 21, 2024. The winnings include 5,000 euros in prize money.

When and where: Preliminary ruling on May 5, 2024 in Munich, final on October 21, 2024 in Bonn.

Who is eligible to participate: Professional chefs from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Tyrol.

Competition requirements: You apply with a three-course menu that meets certain requirements. In addition to the recipes and calculation for the menu, you must also submit the culinary philosophy behind the dishes as well as photos and a short introduction video.          

Costs: Participation is free of charge.                                                                                          

National Chef of the Year

“National Chef of the Year is a career stepping stone and that’s how it made me famous, among other things,” enthused Gordon Ramsay, former winner of the famous chef competition, at the 50th Anniversary celebration in 2022. The current competition also bears the signature of the British celebrity chef. After all, the new chairman of the jury is none other than Matt Abé, head chef at three-star restaurant Gordon Ramsay. He recently announced the assignment for the renowned cooking competition, which was founded in 1972. For example, the participants have to prepare a three-course fixed menu for two people within three hours – including a starter called “This is me”. In other words, a fish, seafood or vegetarian dish that reflects your own personality and identity. However, the emphasis is not only on technique and creativity, but also on the participants using the ingredients responsibly and wasting as little food as possible – all chef competitions now seem to have this aspect in common.

When and where: The final will take place in London on October 8, 2024.

Who is eligible to participate: All chefs who are at least 26 years old. The cut-off date is October 1, 2024.

Competition requirements: A three-course meal for two people that needs to be prepared within three hours. The starter theme is “This is me”, with lamb as the main course and a warm or cold chocolate dessert as the finishing touch.

Bocuse d’Or

The teams had five and a half hours to prepare a two-course menu for 14 people each at the Bocuse d’Or in Trondheim in March. Among other things, they had to showcase typical Norwegian products such as reindeer meat or the national schnapps Aquavit. The next national preliminary ruling will take place in mid-June, and for the first time in the USA. What’s more, it will be in New Orleans, the city that was recently named America’s “best food destination” by TripAdvisor. Nine teams will fight for entry into the final. They will have to prepare wild boar meat, alligator sausage and groats – all in front of Honorary President Emeril Lagasse, famous for his Cajun and Creole cuisine. There’s definitely a reason why the Bocuse d’Or, which was founded in 1987 by cooking legend Paul Bocuse, is one of the toughest and most prestigious chef competitions on the planet. Not only does it pick up on the latest cooking trends, it is also an inspiration for the world of gastronomy.

When and where: The American preliminary ruling will take place on June 12 and 13, 2024 in New Orleans, and the world final on January 25 and 26, 2025 in Lyon, France.

Who is eligible to participate: Professional chefs born before January 26, 2002. They must also belong to the nationality they represent at Bocuse d’Or.

Competition requirements: Applicants must submit information about the make-up of their organization (structure and personnel), their sponsors, their communication plans/projects and information about the candidate or team (portrait of each member, biographies, information about their workplace, etc.).


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Pastry World Cup

“There are many competitions called Coupe du Monde, but in my opinion there is only one Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, and that’s this one here,” said Lorenzo Puca, former winner of the Pastry World Cup and president of the international jury at the 2023 final. Two confectioners (one sugar expert and one chocolate manufacturer) join forces during the competition to face the different challenges together. On June 11, a day before the Bocuse d’Or preliminary award, the best confectioners from North and South America will also be competing in New Orleans. Their mission: 16 desserts, two artistic creations and a buffet. Among other things, they also have to showcase America’s famous cheesecake. The three teams that make it to the podium in New Orleans will have the chance of winning the coveted title in the final in Lyon in January 2025.

When and where: The American preliminary ruling will take place on June 11, 2024 in New Orleans, and the world final on January 24 and 25, 2025 in Lyon, France.

Who is eligible to participate: Professional chefs born before January 25, 2002.

Competition requirements: The same rules apply here as for Bocuse d’Or (see above).

The World Food Championships

The mood is heating up. The stopwatch counts down the seconds relentlessly. Anyone who does not deliver on time has no business here. After all, the World Food Championships are like a huge sporting event, just for chefs. The Superbowl among the chef competitions, so to speak. Every year, some of the best chefs, professional cooking teams and amateur chefs from around the world travel to prove themselves in one of the twelve categories – from burgers, soups and barbecue to sandwiches, seafood or vegetarian dishes. Almost forty countries and all American states have already made it into the major final since the WFC was founded in 2012. But in the end, there can only be one winner, who takes home not just the title, but also the main prize of 150,000 dollars.

When and where: The 12th WFC final will take place from November 8 to 12, 2024 in Indianapolis, USA.

Who is eligible to participate: Chefs who are at least 18 years old. Younger participants require the written consent of a legal guardian, and must be accompanied by them during the competition.

Competition requirement: Chefs must win either one of the qualifying rounds or online cooking competitions in order to take part. Mike McCloud, the organizer, also awards golden tickets to chefs he has seen in action and who have impressed him.

Costs: The costs vary and can be up to 1,000 dollars, but in some cases they are covered by sponsors.

Cheering chefs at the Chef Competition IKA

Image: IKA

IKA/Chef Olympics

As befits the Olympic Games, the participants in the 26th IKA /Olympics for Chefs kicked things off with their national flags. In total, more than 1,200 chefs from 55 nations, including 88 teams and around 520 individual exhibitors, cooked around 7,000 menus over four days – wow! This ranged from an elaborate seven-course dinner for 14 people to a high-quality three-course menu for 120 guests. The Olympic Games of Chefs is the oldest international chef competition in the world and was held for the first time in 1900. Each time, the participants prepare for many months, if not years. After all, they have to win over a jury of over 70 people. Although the Olympic spirit and being there counts, finishing on the top step of the podium is even better.

When and where: The next IKA/Chef Olympics will be held in 2028, probably again in February in Stuttgart as part of Intergastra, a trade fair for the hotel and gastronomy industry. You can register a good year before the opening.

Who is eligible to participate: The national teams must be the official teams of the respective international chefs’ associations – and these in turn must be  Worldchefs members. However, you just need to register to take part; no application is required. Although there are only a certain number of entry places, these normally match up well with the registrations. As a result, the organizer does not usually reject anyone.

Competition requirements: The “cooking” teams (national, youth, community catering) must submit a team photo and their menu (in writing and with photos) in advance of the IKA, which should then also be cooked and presented at the competition.

Costs: Participation fees vary by category. For the national teams, the fees amounted to 800 euros in 2024 (and a deposit of 1,000 euros, which was refunded after the competition), while individual exhibitors paid 110 euros for stands.


Admittedly, chef competitions are not for the faint of heart. They cost money, even more time and call for nerves of steel. But all those who make it onto the podium can be sure that they have made a huge leap up the career ladder. However, it’s about more than just victory. It’s also about testing your limits, gaining new experiences and becoming inspired. Above all, you need to do more than simply present perfect dishes. If you want to get ahead, you also have to give a little of yourself. As star chef Thomas Keller once said, “A recipe itself has no soul. As a chef, you have to put your soul into the recipe first.” If you decide to take part in one of the next chef competitions, we wish you the best of luck!

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