Up Close with Chef Thomas Gugler
Thomas Gugler was elected the President of WorldChefs for a four year term at the WorldChefs Congress 2016 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Mirjam van IJssel met with Chef Thomas to ask him about his vision and plans for the further development of WorldChefs.
Chef Thomas has served as Continental Director of Africa & Middle East for WorldChefs for the past three years. During this time he was instrumental in establishing numerous chefs associations in the region which included Jordan, Palestine, Qatar, Lebanon, Kenya, Seychelles, Reunion, Togo, Liberia, Tunisia, Morocco, and most recently in Syria. Chef Thomas is a German national and has lived in Saudi Arabia for the past 16 years. He is a certified A category judge and a certified Executive Master Chef. He has won hundreds of medals and awards as well as tokens of appreciation from around the globe.
At present Thomas Gugler works as the Corporate Director of Kitchens for Arabian Food Supplies (AFS) Naghi Group. His Presidium includes: Martin Kobald from South Africa as Vice President, Uwe Micheel from the United Arab Emirates as Assistant Vice President, Cornelia Volino from Canada as General Secretary and K.K. Yau from Malaysia as special assignment liaison for Asia.
Congratulations on winning the WorldChefs Presidential election! What was your reaction when they announced you had been elected?
My first thought was, it’s unbelievable. It seemed that all my effort and hard work had paid off. At the same time I remembered what someone said about my election “from an apprentice to the president” – that’s just incredible! And so it seemed. I was overwhelmed, super happy. I thought of all the world’s chefs and the importance of my new position. I felt extremely proud to be here for them and send them my thanks for electing me.
What do you think are the main challenges and opportunities for WorldChefs?
There are several main challenges. One is to unite all the chefs from around the globe and another is to set and promote standards that apply internationally regardless of location or region. It is absolutely important to enhance the training and education of young chefs everywhere. We need global standards in culinary schooling systems while simultaneously giving attention to practical as well theoretical training.
What will your team as the new presidium add to the further development of WorldChefs?
The entire team has already started on activating all committees. More help and emphasis will be given to World Chefs Without Borders (WCWB). This is the humanitarian sector under WorldChefs. This is an important initiative of WorldChefs that can make a real difference in many people’s lives across the globe. Given that chefs are generous by nature and like to contribute to other people’s well being, WCWB can play an important role in channelling the dedication and spirit of chefs worldwide. We wish to establish a dynamic marketing and PR committee. Also important in our opinion is the establishment of a Cultural Heritage and Ethnic Cooking Committee. This will promote local cuisines and thus preserve food heritage as part of a country’s culture and identity. A further priority is to ensure that there is greater input from female chefs which means that women must be present on all WorldChefs committees. It goes without saying that we will communicate frequently with all the presidents of the national chef’s associations in order to listen to their thoughts and ideas and so shape WorldChefs’ new strategies and progresses.
What is the first task you will embark on as President and what are your priorities?
The first mission is to have one Ambassador in each member country who will represent World Chefs Without Borders. Parallel to this we are working on performance reports that will better trace all the activities and achievements of all boards and committees. I regard support for the development of young chefs as a major priority. Preserving rural cooking techniques globally is also of concern. We wish to promote the WorldChefs organisation by building bridges for communication among all member countries. There must be inclusive exchange of knowledge and support for new ideas.
Do you think the Middle East & Africa region will benefit from the fact that you have been WorldChefs Continental Director for this region and are located in Saudi Arabia?
I am sure the entire region will benefit from the fact that I know all the specific problems and difficulties of the region. I know its needs and what support it requires as well as the direction we must take in order for the organization’s activities in the region to flourish. I wish to congratulate Andy Cuthbert on his appointment as my successor as Continental Director for Africa & the Middle East. He too has lived many years in the Middle East and is very close to me personally and to all of the members.
What is your vision for enhancing chefs’ education in the developing countries?
Personally, I believe education is the key to success. We as the world organisation must ensure that we give equal support to all chefs wherever they may be. This means that financially better placed countries are obliged to support weaker ones. In addition our organization should share training and instructional courses and materials with members globally. We want to create synergies within our professional community. To do this we must establish more culinary training centres like the ones established in Egypt. These were planned and operated by the Egyptian Chefs Association’s past President Markus Iten. His initiative and enthusiasm and the work of the ECA have transformed the profession in Egypt.
Being President of WorldChefs can be demanding and time consuming even though it is a voluntary position. How will you keep a personal life balance? How will you divide your time between work, family and WorldChefs?
All my life I dreamt of being a chef and this is my passion. Yes, to be a President is demanding and requires a balance between work, family and vision. My family can occasionally join me on my travels. Their presence adds pleasure to the task but they also keep me rooted in the mission. I owe them a great deal. They have given me support and assistance at all times and I am grateful to them for their patience and understanding.
Thank you for this interesting interview. Would like you to send a message to the Egyptian chefs?
It’s a pleasure for me to know you all. I send my best wishes to all the Egyptian chefs and congratulate them on their tremendous achievements over the past few years. You are in my thoughts and have my continued support.