A team from Ara Institute of Canterbury fought off fierce competition from around the country to win the top award in the prestigious annual Nestlé Toque d’Or student culinary competition.
Culinary students Corentin Esquenet and Anu Kashyap proved to be champs in the kitchen picking up two gold medals, while Ben Crean dazzled diners at the event with his restaurant service skills to also receive a gold medal.
The trio were one of three of the country’s top premier teams who battled it out to create and serve their award-winning menu.
The dishes comprised an entrée of Akaroa Salmon sous vide with burnt citrus salt, cucumber jelly and beetroot puree, followed by New Zealand Beef Sirloin, beef short rib dumpling, a cauliflower and horseradish puree, kumara fondant and sauté greens. The menu concluded with an entremet of milk chocolate hazelnut and passionfruit, chocolate ribbon and a burnt butter crème brulee ice cream, plus a spectacular individually chosen cheese board.
The pressure was on throughout the three hours live kitchen cook off, as the team fought against the clock and scrutiny of a panel of top industry judges. Any errors made by competitors during the event resulted in lost points.
An integral part of the competition is the Moffat Innovation Award which requires teams to use a Nestlé Professional product outside of its intended application. This year’s winner was Otago Polytechnic Cromwell Campus which used various Nestlé Professional products creatively across the menu.
The group of judges was led by high profile chef and leading culinary figure Darren Wright of Christchurch. Competing teams were marked against WorldChefs International Judging Standards which included food preparation, presentation, taste and service.
Corentin said he and his team-mates were elated to have won the competition, after training so hard for it.
“We’ve spent so many days creating and perfecting the menu and our routines so that we were ready to go on competition day. At the end of the day, it was all about effective communications, teamwork and remaining calm.”
One of the team’s chef trainers Adele Hingston said the team had done an outstanding job, supported by restaurant trainer Heather Dyksma and chef trainer Michael Andrew.
“Bringing home the top award is a fantastic achievement and a great opportunity to showcase Ara Institute of Canterbury’s expertise.
“This win clearly demonstrates that the Institute has a lot to offer in terms of hospitality and culinary training.”
Event organiser and NZChefs President Hughie Blues said Nestlé Toque d’Or is the ultimate challenge for hospitality students.
“They have to keep it together, tame nerves, support each other and work seamlessly as a team to achieve a top performance on competition day.”
This year was the 29th anniversary of Nestlé Toque d’Or which is New Zealand’s longest running and most prestigious student cookery and restaurant service event. Aside from New Zealand, it is also held in 17 other countries around the world and has launched the careers of many world-famous chefs.
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.