A Braunton chef is poised to make waves on the international culinary stage as she represents England at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany.
Carla Jones, the owner of Braunton restaurant Anima, is scheduled to represent England at the international competition running from February 2 to 7.
The England team will face a variety of other countries as they battle out to win. If successful, Carla and the England team will bring back gold for their country.
The International Exhibition of Culinary Art (IKA) Culinary Olympics is the world’s largest international exhibition for culinary skills. This event will be held for the second time at Messe Stuttgart.
Originally from Wales, Carla moved to North Devon, where she and her partner Georgia own and operate Anima in Braunton. Now, Carla is embarking on an extraordinary food adventure, flying out from Heathrow Airport on Thursday, February 1 to partake in the Culinary Olympics.
Reflecting on her culinary lineage, Carla said: “I always wanted to be a chef, to be creative and earn money. My grandma and mum were chefs and the passion for hospitality runs in the family. It’s in my blood.”
The IKA Culinary Olympics unfolds with the grandeur of the traditional sport Olympics, featuring a ceremonial beacon lighting.
Carla, an integral part of a 14-member team representing England, shed light on the careful planning involved, which began a year-and-a-half before the competition. Each team member plays a vital role, with Carla focusing her expertise on elements such as dessert and fish courses.
Within the competition, there are many challenges each country will face, including prepping food in the hot kitchen, preparing table finger food, as well as following the various rules and regulations behind the competition
Ahead of the event, the team not only need to fly themselves out to Germany, but also their own kitchen equipment as well as their ingredients.
Describing the rigorous preparation process, Carla explained the strict rules governing the competition, from the precise weight of finger foods to the compelling storytelling behind each dish. She said: “You get marked on methodical work, taste, look, and even the story behind the food. It’s a challenge, but it’s huge and massive.
“There’s even rules down to each element including the weight of the finger food, which needs to weigh between 10 and 15 grams, otherwise you lose marks.”
Carla detailed the team’s extensive year-long preparation, which included immersive dummy runs in London. She highlighted the unique challenges of the competition, such as preparing a service for 120 people without prior knowledge of the orders. She said she was mentally prepared for the challenge and was “feeling good about it.”
Addressing competition from other countries, Carla singled out Sweden, citing their substantial budget and paid chefs. “We do this all on our own time, all voluntary. We rely on sponsors,” she explained.
Looking towards the future, Carla envisions adapting her restaurant, Anima, based on customer feedback. She acknowledged the unique offerings of the restaurant, with daily dinner options catering to both locals and tourists and said: “This year will be about listening to what people have to say and what they want and then trying to adapt a little bit to that. We’re offering daily options, covering two sides of the spectrum.”
Expressing her love for Devon, Carla added: “I absolutely love the area; the abundance of produce from the shoreline to the pastures…”
In anticipation of potential victory, Carla painted a vivid picture: “If we brought gold back as a team, we would have such a massive party. It is, at this point, unimaginable how I would feel and how proud I would be to get a chance to represent my country.”
Carla is hoping to bring home a medal, not just as a personal achievement but as a tribute to the skill and dedication of the English culinary team.