Die 6 Finalisten
Die 6 Finalisten

Once again, the Scheck-iN Kochfabrik in Achern is the venue for the Cook of the Year competition.

For two days, 16 teams fight for a place in the grand finale.

In addition to prize money, fame and honor await the winners. Some of the finalists will soon be rewarded with a mention or even a star in the Michelin Guide.

In general, the climb to the culinary Olympus, where the Michelin stars shine brightly, is arduous and full of hardships!

In addition to talent, an absolute will and the desire to spend long hours at the stove, you always need that famous bit of luck to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor in the end.

Competitions provide an excellent stage to elevate oneself from the crowd, to show one’s art to an expert audience, to perfect one’s skills, and perhaps to shorten one’s path to the top a little.

If it’s not quite worth making it to the finals or one of the top positions, you’re sure to increase your own name recognition and maybe even your own market status.

Chef of the Year, a well established competition!

Die Veranstalterin: Nuira Roig de Puig

The preliminary final will be held for the first time in 2023 under the new organizer RoiKa Solutions GmbH with Nuria Roig de Puig as CEO.

By the way, it is she who imported the competition from Spain to Germany in 2010. On the Iberian peninsula, the “Cocinero del Año” was already a smash hit in terms of popularity.

The former three-star chef Dieter Müller was recruited for the project and, with his experience and expertise, helped to successfully promote the series in Germany right from the start.

With each edition, the level rises and with it, of course, the demands on the participants. Technical finesse, creativity, inventiveness and stylistic confidence – these are the chords of a winning anthem.

Already during the application phase, those responsible decide who will be accepted for the final round.

Does the menu proposal convey an idea, or even a message? Is the technical skill sufficient? Does the applicant have the potential to keep cool even in critical situations?

Finally, cook a fish with sauce for me!

Dieter Müller, Chef Legend

One lucky day, the postman brings a letter, and with shaky, sweaty fingers, the aspirant tears open the envelope. “I’m on board,” he shouts to the world, hardly able to believe his luck.

After the initial, feel-good shock, the time of preparation begins.

A pianist who performs at the famous Chopin Competition in Warsaw first determines his competition program, then the technical practice phase follows, and finally he gains stage experience and routine with his program until the big day finally arrives.

In the Cook of the Year competition, the menu is already determined during the application phase. I assume that during the preparation period, the participants will practice within the limits of their possibilities and perform one or the other test dinner.
The chef will lend a helping hand. Some of the cooks leave nothing to coincidence and meticulously rehearse for the competition.

The last few days before the competition are hectic. Lists are made. Purchases are made. Certain procedures are mentally rehearsed over and over again.

The Competition

Do things with passion or don’t do it

Christian Bau, Three Star Michelin Chef

When the teams finally occupy the cooking stations, what counts above all is confidence and professionalism. Every move has to be perfect, and everyone knows where their place is. The technical jury makes sure that service times are adhered to and that the candidates do not cheat.

This time the jury includes Jan Pettke (Scheck-In Kochfabrik, Achern), Patrick Lorenz (Upfield, Germany), Christian Thiele (RATIONAL, Germany) and Marvin Böhm (Aqua**, Wolfsburg), as well as Fabrice Ohlmann (EPOCA by Tristan Brandt, Waldhaus Flims Wellness Resort & Spa, Flims (CH)) as the service jury.

Spectators, participants, press, jurors. The tension is evident, everyone senses what is at stake here. The temperature in the room rises. People roll up their sleeves, untie their ties.

A thousand attentive eyes observe how delicately, how precisely, how devotedly the plates are arranged. It must be a feast for the eyes. And for the psyche! The latter is often underestimated.

Benedikt Faust & Thorsten Bender

The jury

After the work is done, the top-class jury takes over. The list for this edition includes such illustrious names as Torsten Michel from the Schwarzwaldstube, Tristan Brandt (top chef, international patron for culinary projects), Ricky Saward (first German Michelin Vegan chef) and many others.

In the evening the legendary kitchen party! At this top-class dinner, important wildcards will be awarded. Invited guests from gastronomy and the press decide which participant will get a ticket to the final.

I myself was there this time and would not like to withhold from you my little culinary notes on the individual creations.


Hans Lange (Chef, Rotissier du Sommelier, Essen) serves us on a plate Two Cultures, One Taste.
The composition gleams with fine sensory qualities. A little chili spiciness provides animation in the mouth. A typical summer dish with tropical citations. Pure refreshment. Tastes like a beautiful evening on the terrace, with cicadas chirping in the background (isn’t that wonderfully kitschy, dear readers?).

Sascha Leim serves us a pork belly Homestyle Edition, ambrosialack, green papaya and Thom Kha.
A classic. Suddenly I’m lying on the beach of Koh Samui, culinary is also magic dear readers, a flying carpet of imagination.
Craftsmanship is first class, the man is after all chef at the restaurant Silberberg, Traube Tonbach. The texture fits, the aroma is lasting. A very effective Thai quote.

The only woman in the competition Entihal Khatib (Demichef de Partie, Restaurant Levi Leonardo, Royal Hotel Nuremberg) cooks for us: sherry, herring, crustacean broth, pistachio.
The well-dosed, yet amazing saltiness surprises and delights us both in equal measure. A typical example of a successful interplay of textures and flavors. The fish is cleverly integrated. Middle East on the plate, the pistachio ensures.
Timeless, elegant with a delicate breeze of feminine lightness, Merci Madame!

Fabian Höckenreiter (sous chef at Restaurant Huberwirt*, Pleiskirchen) is going for it with Meatballs for the People (Vegan). The idea for this came to him during a trip to Stockholm, where he came across a restaurant with exactly this name. The meatballs tasted great to him, and to make sure that message got through everywhere, he simply named his dish after the restaurant.

Fabian’s meatballs stand out because of their powerful roasted aroma.
A few mushrooms refine the plate. For some, this might be real soul food. For me, the decisive portion of naughtiness is missing. But maybe the message should be: Harmony people, harmony! In this present day and age, that can’t be wrong.

Marcel von Winckelmann (chef at Landgasthof zum Müller in Ruderting), Alpen Jause!
What Marcel brings to the plate here is first amusing, second entertaining and third very well done.
The smoked Maibocktatar rocks like hell. Radish relish and Philadelphia cream cheese meet at full moon in the barn for a lovers’ tryst, they certainly don’t mess around. Wild garlic is cleverly used, not too bold. Terrific stuff. This is program cuisine par excellence. That’s how culinary storytelling works.

Riccardo Ponti (sous chef Gioias Restaurant, Rheinau): IT-DE (Vegan).
A vegan vegetable bolognese. The dish is deconstructed, the individual elements such as minced meat, bechamel sauce and cheese have to be assembled by the guest himself on his fork to create the desired end product.
Ponti’s presentation is very professional. Béchamel very creamy. Vegan vegetable mince still needs work. Texture, structure and sensory are right. The flavor, unfortunately, lacks a bit of charm. Important to know: The shopping cart for the dish in the evening is predetermined, not easy!

Matias Acuna (Souschef Restaurant Nigrum Baden-Baden): 4 Elements by Norwegian Seafood, Boiron, Moak.

A well-known pairing: St. Jacques & coffee. Sublime quality of the mussel. The chef should treat the noble product like the agent treats his star soprano before the performance at La Scala in Milan, where she is supposed to sweep the audience off their seats with a virtuoso coloratura aria:
Tender, evocative, sensitive, quiet.
That doesn’t succeed here. The sauce is elegant, it is good, perhaps even very good, there is no doubt about that. Unfortunately, the dosage destroys the overall structure, there is a little too much of each ingredient on the plate. That is a pity. Nevertheless, an extraordinarily talented chef. Acuna will make his way.

Sebastian Schwesiger (Chef, Swiss Chaelt Merlischachen CH): Tacos de Mecal y mole (vegan).

A great idea, everyone loves street food. Good tacos are considered an art. I like them with plucked chicken, cilantro and black bean paste. A good portion of cheese on top some chili, wow. Or vegetarian, with guacamole, fresh onions and lime zest.

I suspect shopping basket problems. The bite is a wee bit pappy, that’s how it feels to me anyway. The vegan mince is very saturated and high in fat. That is per se no disaster. Here, however, I find it a little difficult to consume.
The chili sauce on the other hand has decent steam and is fun. Probably the creation can be easily marketed, that fits for a youthful, nutrition-conscious audience. Vegan is the future, folks!

Die Finalists

website Koch des Jahres…

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über den Autor


Mathias Guthmann schreibt unter anderem für kulinarische Zeitschriften und den Schachsport. Seine Essays, Reiseberichte und Kurzgeschichten haben eine hohe Reichweite und werden in verschiedensten Fachmagazinen, auch international, publiziert. In der freien Wirtschaft berät der Autor eine Firma zu PR-Strategien.

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