Innovation

Culinary Competitions And The Rise Of ‘Virtual’ Competing

Key points

  • A culinary competition win can bring invaluable publicity and recognition to your business
  • Travel restrictions and border closures have led to the rise of virtual competitions with entrants livestreamed to a remote judging panel
  • Judges can’t actually taste the food but this gives entrants a chance to shine as they must showcase and ‘hero’ their food to the judges
  • Virtual competitions put a sharper focus on innovative recipes and cooking techniques

Participating in culinary competitions presents an opportunity to have your food judged against your peers – and can help you to develop your own skillset through exposure to other recipes and cooking methods, sometimes from Australia’s top chefs.

Putting your talent to the test in the competitive arena may seem a little daunting, but the rewards can make the effort well worthwhile. Winning a culinary competition can bring invaluable publicity and recognition to your business – you can showcase your win on social media, countertop cards and in-store signage. Many competition winners report that the publicity generated during competition finals can carry on for months afterward, and customers are likely to come in and order your award-winning pizza, pasta or other meals. You’ll also find local radio and other news media may be interested in reporting your win, which can also help generate new business.

Culinary competitions are typically run regularly throughout the year both by professional industry associations and as supplier-sponsored initiatives, but in recent months have been impacted by travel restrictions and border closures. However, event organisers have responded creatively to the challenge and we’re now seeing the rise of virtual competitions.

Just as business has embraced online technology such as Zoom and Skype for ‘webinars’, teleconferences and virtual meetings, it seems even culinary competitions can be held online. International organisations like Culinary Arts Switzerland, Culinary Academy of India and The Emirates Culinary Guild have led the way and the trend has also now reached Australia.

In these virtual competitions, entrants cook up a storm in front of the cameras which are livestreaming their efforts to a panel of judges watching remotely. The biggest difference from a traditional competition is that the judges can’t actually taste the food – so they have to rely on competitors providing indepth descriptions and explanations of how the meal was prepared and how the ingredients complement each other.

But this in itself is a good thing, because it gives competitors the opportunity to show the judges how much thought, effort and skill they’ve put into the preparation of the meal. Sometimes judges don’t necessarily understand what’s gone into the creation of a particular entry, and by talking them through the recipe and the method it gives the competitor the chance to really shine and ‘hero’ their dish.

Virtual competitions may mean that judges have to think differently about how and why they reach their conclusions – but their rise is certainly putting a sharper focus on innovative recipes and cooking techniques, and that’s bound to be good for the industry. And with some competitions now requiring video entries, young chefs are getting the chance to showcase their video editing skills along with their cooking prowess – another innovation set to become increasingly commonplace into the future.