The country’s top hospitality students are sharpening up their knives and skills in preparation for this year’s national culinary competition Nestlé Toque d’Or.
Putting it all on the line at the event will be 15 students from the country’s leading training institutes including last year’s winners, ARA Institute of Canterbury.
NZChefs National President and organiser of Nestlé Toque d’Or, Hughie Blues, said the competitors have all signed up for what will be a challenging and rigorous training schedule in the run up to the big event.
“I am very excited to be playing a part in this year’s event and I am looking forward to watching the competition unfold,” Hughie says.
“For all involved this will, no doubt, be a roller coaster ride with many ups and down. Remember, commitment and dedication will get you through. As a good friend once told me, ‘Good better best, never let it rest. Until your good gets better, and your better is your very, very best.’”
Nestlé Toque d’Or which is now into its 29th year, is considered by those in the industry to be the country’s premier student culinary and front of house competition. The event shines a light on New Zealand’s emerging culinary and restaurant service superstars.
“The top spot is fiercely contested and the competition, as always, will be intense. Competitors will have to create dishes and deliver a front of house service to attending guests that is of an exceptionally high standard,” Hughie said.
“Last year, a team from the Ara Institute Canterbury took out the top title and will be returning again this year to defend their win.”
The five teams this year are:
- Defence Catering School NZ
- ARA Institute of Canterbury
- Otago Polytechnic Central
- NZChefs Training Team Manawatu
Each team is made up of two culinary and one restaurant service students or apprentices.
“They’ll be arriving in Auckland during August to take up their allotted spots in a competition arena that has been set up to look like a live kitchen working environment.”
The stakes and tensions are high as teams strive to get everything right and avoid costly mistakes that could result in lost points.
“The menus the students create in advance of the event and deliver to guests on competition day must be as close to perfect as possible, if they want to be named the winning team.”
Further adding to the pressure are tight time constraints for delivering the service and a panel of top local and international industry judges who will scrutinise their every move.
“It will take a combination of nerves of steel and a coordinated team approach, if they want to score top marks against the World Chef’s judging criteria that’s being used.”
The teams are given a list of ingredients in advance that they can use to create their menus.
“Apart from the highly competitive aspect, the event also opens doors to job opportunities as influential culinary professionals will be at the venue scouting for new talent.”
Nestlé Toque d’Or will be held on Monday 12 August at the Trusts Arena in Auckland. An awards dinner will be held later in the evening at the venue where the winning team will be announced.
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 NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association.