Award-winning chef Darren Wright has been appointed as Chief Judge for the country’s top student culinary competition – Nestlé Toque d’Or.
Despite his hectic work schedule, Darren said being part of the event is something he couldn’t pass up given that Nestlé Toque d’Or is a highlight on the annual culinary calendar.
“It’s an event that brings together under the ‘one roof’ the country’s top student and trainee culinary and restaurant service stars.
“For over three hours, teams compete against each other in a live kitchen cook off that is both fast paced and frenetic. Nerves are frayed as they battle it out to win the top award.
“It’s an incredible experience where the industry gets to see the next generation of culinary talents before they go on to make names for themselves in the industry both here and overseas.”
Having competed himself in many high profile international culinary competitions, Darren is all too familiar with the high level of commitment required to excel in such an environment.
NZChefs National President and organiser of the event, Hughie Blues, says Darren's strong international standing and longstanding involvement with Nestlé Toque d’Or made him the standout choice for Chief Judge.
"Darren is a hugely talented and successful chef whose expertise is highly sought after. We are thrilled that he is able to juggle his work and other commitments to take on this role.”
Over the years, Darren and his wife Leanne, have built up two award-winning restaurants including Chillingworth Rd in Christchurch. Darren has been awarded numerous accolades including being named as a Platinum Beef + Lamb NZ Ambassador Chef which carries a lifetime status.
Darren says competing at Nestlé Toque d’Or sets the competitors apart from their industry peers.
“All of the students are chosen to compete because they are talented at what they do. Their involvement in the competition clearly signals to a prospective employer that they are people who have been identified as holding great future potential in what can often be a tough and demanding industry.”
To compete at Nestlé Toque d’Or, the institutes put forward a team of three who, under the guidance of their tutors, spend months in advance preparing for the event. They must perfect a three-course meal for six people and practise delivering each course to three diners and the panel of judges all within a set timeframe.
Nestlé Toque d’Or is New Zealand’s longest running and most prestigious student cookery and food service event. It is held in 17 countries around the world and has launched the careers of several world-famous chefs, including Jamie Oliver.
Organised by NZChefs in conjunction with Nestlé Professional, the event is supported by other top organisations involved in the hospitality industry including: Akaroa Salmon, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Fresh Connection, House of Knives, Moffat and the New Zealand Specialty Cheese Association.
The 29th Nestlé Toque d’Or will be held on Monday 12 August in Auckland. An awards dinner will be held later in the evening where the winning team will be announced.