OUR GASTRONOMY AWARD 2018 GOES TO...
Gold Medal winner in cooking at the 2017 Worldskills Champinships in Abu Dhabi
Thomas Tutzer (South Tyrol) wins the vocational championship in cooking
The winning of the vocational championship in the field of cooking by Thomas Tutzer is rightfully regarded as a major milestone in the wonderful development of the cooking profession and vocational training in South Tyrol. The SKV (the South Tyrolean Federation of Cooks) was there with Thomas Tutzer starting right with the preparatory phase to share in the excitement. Our expert chef, Christian Pircher, as well as our international WACS Juror, Master Chef Andreas Köhne, and the whole coaching team were present during the preparatory phase and could hardly control their enthusiasm as Thomas Tutzer went to work. Thomas Tutzer was cheered on by the star chef and World Champion mentor Master Chef Egon Heiss. During the preparatory period, it soon became evident that Thomas Tutzer would be a high-profile competitor, displaying considerable professional skill, consistency, continuity, and a high level of confidence even when confronted with extremely challenging tasks. Just before starting on the trip to Abu Dhabi, there was quite a scare when Thomas Tutzer had to undergo an unplanned appendectomy, but for the duration of the international competition itself, he maintained his cool at all times and displayed unparalleled virtuosity. His performance during the four days of the competition was truly unique. After besting the entire international competition (42 up-and-coming chefs from the entire globe), he won the Gold Medal, the "Best of Nation" award, and attained the fourth-highest score for all competing vocations among the more than 1,200 participants. The people of South Tyrol and of the Sarentino Valley, the entire tourism industry, and all the cooks and chefs of South Tyrol can be truly proud of Thomas Tutzer. We, the SKV (the South Tyrolean Federation of Cooks), are likewise amazed by our candidate's stellar performance. It was really phenomenal, and will go down in history. At the same time, it confirms the path we are taking in promoting innovation and constant renewal.
Master Chef Reinhard Steger
President of the SKV
Four questions for World Champion Chef Thomas Tutzer:
Our heart-felt congratulations for winning the World Championship for professional cooks! How did you celebrate this stunning success, and are you looking forward to a little rest now?
I immediately celebrated this victory with the entire South Tyrolean team in Abu Dhabi and later, after our return, at Maretsch Castle and finally once again in Bad Schörgau. In recent months, the members of the team for South Tyrol / Italy grew to be like a family. There was no time for a rest. After two days of celebrations, I resumed my full-time schedule at the Alpes Gourmet Restaurant in Bad Schörgau – after all, we still have a lot of guests in October and we thus have a great deal of work to do.
You are only 21 years old, and thus still quite young. When did you discover your passion for the cooking profession, and what were the major mileposts for you during your apprenticeship?
I discovered my passion for the cooking profession at the age of about 11 or 12, when my grandmother came home to us every Tuesday night. That's when I was allowed to help her cook for my parents. We prepared traditional dishes like roasts, risotto, and noodle dishes which my grandmother had learned from her mother – but I was also allowed to try out new dishes. As an apprentice, I view my time at the Kaiserhof Provincial Hotel Management School in Merano and my first kitchen practicum with Gottfried Messner at the Restaurant Braunwirt in Sarnthein as major milestones. Then, at the age of 15, I got the opportunity to work in the kitchen with Master Chef Egon Heiss in Bad Schörgau. At first, this was only as a kitchen helper while still attending school. But then I've stayed there until the present day, and have learned invaluable things from Egon Heiss. He also provided me with significant support during my development, and always "had my back." I really do owe him everything that I am today! But my one-month practicum in Switzerland with Andreas Caminada, one of the world's 50 best chefs, or my time with Hans Haas at the "cult" restaurant Tantris in Munich have also influenced my development.
What were the biggest challenges you had to master during the 2017 Worldskills Championships in Abu Dhabi?
The biggest challenges in Abu Dhabi were to endure the pressure that was coming at me from all directions; to compete against 42 competitors from all over the world; and to motivate myself every day to do my utmost and go that "extra mile." The competition was enormous! All 42 competitors in my discipline had come to Worldskills to win. So I had no choice but to accept this pressure and always remember that we had given our all every day during the preparation. Of course, you have to have 100% concentration during those four days to make perfect use of all you've learned. Additionally, it was important to remain completely focused on my plan – even if the competition did something entirely different that might arguably have been better. We stayed the course, and paid as little attention as possible to what the others were doing. Further challenges and major factors during the competition were the shift in cuisine every day and the handling of foreign products and their quality. It was then that I noted that we in South Tyrol have become rather accustomed to always using high-quality ingredients.
How do you intend to maintain that high level of motivation after your Worldskills victory, and what other goals do you have? Where might you be in, say, ten years?
From the very start, the mere fact that I had made it to the World Championships was an enormous source of motivation. Prior to the Championships, we had been told that we would have only a slim chance against the competition – particularly from the Asian countries. The fact that I am now standing here with the Gold Medal is an awesome feeling. It shows that I was able to endure the pressure and make use of my skills when it counted. I see that as an intermediate accomplishment. But I can't afford to rest on my laurels, and so intend to continue giving my best in the future, as well. I want to improve personally, but also in my work at the ALPES Gourmet Restaurant. It's difficult for me to say where I'll be in ten years. That's a long time in the future for me. The important thing is to be able to say, even in ten years, that I enjoy cooking. Maybe, by then, I'll already be a Master Chef somewhere in South Tyrol or another part of the world. I'm really excited, and I'm looking forward to new challenges.
Two questions for World Champion mentor Master Chef Egon Heiss – of the ALPES Gourmet Restaurant, Bad Schörgau Hotel
During your career, you have mentored a great many apprentices. What is unique about the exceptionally talented Thomas Tutzer?
Thomas Tutzer possesses a number of remarkable characteristics, including discipline, stamina, and the determination to improve himself day in and day out. Of course, his talent and joy in cooking are the prerequisites for attaining such goals.
What does Thomas Tutzer's victory means for you personally as a star chef – but also for the ALPES Gourmet Restaurant?
I, personally, am of course overjoyed when young people in whom I have invested a lot of time and effort prove themselves and advance in their career. For Thomas, the title of World Champion is "just" an intermediate victory in what is sure to be a very long and successful career. It has no significance for the restaurant – but our long-time guests who all know Thomas are extremely happy for him and the whole team.