"Sölden is looking for the Gastronomic Super Talent": a unique format celebrated its premiere in Ötztal. The overall winners were the students of the Swiss Hotel Management School in Lucerne. The trip to Austria's highest gourmet restaurant ice Q, the exchange with like-minded people and working with top chefs such as Hans Neuner, Thomas Penz and others were considered a great success by all participants. They would like to see the event repeated.
“Yes, I can imagine working in Sölden in the future. The event made it clear to me how much the restaurant owners of Sölden value young talent. Additionally, it is fantastically beautiful here," explains Helena Stahl, a student at Villa Blanka in Innsbruck. The 17-year-old expresses exactly what also her colleagues feel. For almost 50 tourism students from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Luxembourg, scenic Gaislachkogl summit at 3048 m became a platform for challenges in cooking art, service and marketing as well as exciting insights provided by top-class speakers. At the ice Q gourmet restaurant, the entire gastronomic competence was bundled in one day. In addition to the junior staff of renowned institutions such as Villa Blanka, Landeshotelfachschule Meran or Frankfurt’s Bergius School, also top-class names from the scene were there to provide inspiration, including Hans Neuner, Chef of the Year in Portugal and protagonist of the TV show "Kitchen Impossible". As a "kid grown up at an inn" who never wanted to do anything else, he praises the idea. "I think it's great that such an effort is made to offer young people a stage by motivating them at the same time." Many such actions would help to solve the lack of young professionals.
Feedback like that from Neuner strengthens the organizing team of "Sölden is looking for the Gastronomic Super Talent" around Angelika Falkner. She is head of the "Destination Employer Branding" working group, which was created as part of the "Zukunft Sölden" (Future Sölden) initiative. "It fills me with joy to see the great enthusiasm with which young people realize their full potential when it comes to our profession. It is a real concern of mine to inspire and encourage them," states the experienced owner of Hotel Das Central in Sölden. Sabine Wechselberger, director of Villa Blanka in Innsbruck, speaks of a true "motivation booster for young people". Her summary: “The event was filled with top-class lectures. It was an absolute must to be there." In addition to Hans Neuner and Thomas Penz (winner of "Junge Wilde 2022"), food stylist Nils Jorra, Master of Wine Andreas Wickhoff and the creative minds of Kirchgasser Photography gave the tourism students valuable insights into their working world.
There are plenty of gastronomic competitions. In the combination of cooking art, service and marketing, "Sölden is looking for the Gastronomic Super Talent" stands out. This is confirmed by Marc-André Dietrich, Culinary Director at the renowned Swiss Hotel Management School in Lucerne. "The event stands for best advertising of the entire tourism industry in the Alpine region. It is tremendous that an entire valley is committed to this cause and worthy of imitation for other countries," says Dietrich about the exemplary effect of the Sölden premiere. He and his students were also able to celebrate the overall victory. The other ranks went to South Tirol’s Emma Hellenstainer Landesberufsschule für Gast- & Nahrungsmittelgewerbe in Brixen (2nd place) and Landeshotelfachschule Kaiserhof in Meran (3rd place). In addition, the best teams can look forward to a return to Sölden for a summer holiday, the Electric Mountain Festival or the Ski World Cup Opening. The teams from the Swiss Hotel Management School in Lucerne won the service and kitchen categories. The students from Luxembourg impressed with their outstanding marketing concept.
Feedback for decision makers
Not only the students benefited from the summit meeting. The marketing competition in particular provided the decision makers with valuable input on how the next generation works. In the form of short presentations, the young professionals told the entrepreneurs what an attractive workplace should look like in their opinion. In addition to already known benefits such as free or discounted use of leisure activities, the students also brought up topics such as the compatibility of family and career, networking between locals and employees or ongoing further training opportunities and sustainability.