This year’s Toque d’Or competition, the national student catering competition staged by Nestlé Professional, reaches in its 24th annual conclusion between May 17th-20th for the eight top teams that manage to successfully negotiate its qualifying rounds. Those qualifying rounds have taken on a whole new look this year, as has the whole competition.
In a complete change of direction for the Torque d’Or from the previous 23 years events, the revamped activity program is a literal baptism of fire as competitors will be immersed in a real-life hospitality scenario. Those on the hospitality, catering and cookery courses are encouraged to compete on various levels, designed to encapsulate a whole range of skills, not just those learnt in the kitchen.
The emphasis of locally sourced produce has not escaped this competition, either, as many other UK food competitions have scored strongly in the procurement category. Alongside recipe ideas, cooking skills and actually going out into the market to source ingredients, students will also be assessed on planning the menu and the business strategy to promote that menu and get bums on seats to actually enjoy it.
The top eight teams will be decided after the final preliminary event in Brockenhurst over April 3-4th at the prestigious Wessex Salon Culinaire. Those eight teams will take everything they’ve learnt as students in cookery class and classroom proper environments and demonstrate them before judges over the four days in May, before heading on to the award ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel in London on June 29th.
Even for those who do not make the cut, ‘there are no losers’ in this competition as there are prizes to be won for the eager young contestants at every step along the way, with the regional heats that have already gone before this year at Hotelympia, where this year’s Toque d’Or commenced and other qualifying rounds in Glasgow, Birmingham and Sheffield.
Nestlé Professional MD Neil Stephens is quick to underline the core values of staging a competition of this ilk and why it receives such rave reviews as it travels around the UK’s biggest cities. As we here on cookerycourses.co.uk alluded only last week, for too long, the capability of developing a career in hospitality is often dismissed, but the Toque d’Or looks to right that wrong.
Few ‘front of house staff’ (told you that’s what they were called – what’s wrong with barstaff?) realise the opportunity and those looking to express skill, flair, passion and a strong work ethic are either ridiculed by their peers or put off as the pay is woeful in the early years. Nestlé Professional looks to spot talent in the sector at an early age and encourage that growth, where it can be developed and nurtured in an environment that allows the individual to grow in themselves and bring an added dimension to their own personality and the catering industry.
The real life scenario set for this year’s competition means each team must have one chef, one commis-chef and a member of barstaff ‘front of house’ person. That team will then go on to serve a meal for six covers, having prepared and cooked two courses, against a ticking clock of two hours max.
Everything they’ve learned in cookery class will come to the fore as the main course can not exceed 600 calories, incorporate one of Nestlé’s stocks (that’s the angle, then) and the dessert has to include one of Nestlé’s most renowned chocolates, namely Aero, KitKat or Rolo. No wonder the main course can only amount to 600 calories. Oh, and the final criteria, the meal has a budget of £6 – have Nestlé seen what the shops charge for their bars on their own? Like the pudding, can’t help think that’s just a little bit rich…