Student chefs Shivansh Uppal and Adrian Soriano impressed the judges with their innovative dishes. The menu included a delicately prepared salmon, island-style New Zealand prime beef sirloin and a chocolate orange dessert. All the dishes incorporated a wide array of Nestlé Professional products in creative and inventive ways.
Chef tutor Jonathan Chemis said his students worked diligently to even be considered for the competition. “I talk to the classrooms of students about what the competition is. But then I also tell them they have to get permission from their tutor chef before seeing me again,” Chemis said. Once selected through a rigorous cook-off, the students create their competition dishes with an eye toward being innovative. “With people’s tastes becoming more refined every day, innovation is a crucial skill in a chef’s repertoire.
“After they’ve perfected the signature dishes, they then have to race the clock as they practice tirelessly for the event. They do a proper run of the full menu around six times, to determine where precious seconds can be saved. “You are looking for organisation, cleanliness and speed. The final product is still very important but they are so pushed for time. They were training three months out from the competition. On the day, it just comes down to who can handle the pressure the most.”
Chemis said while it’s a commitment for even the most driven and dedicated students to create something new, it’s an important learning experience. “Preparing for the competition is very much an opportunity to experiment and try products in new and different ways.”Fortunately, Shivansh and Adrian finished five minutes early on the day and landed third place in the overall competition. But it was their documented innovation, more than speed, that convinced the judges. “This school has been involved in the Nestlé Toque d’Or competition for six years. The competing students proudly wear their winning jackets around campus. One student even framed their jacket to hang on the wall. “Having Nestlé Toque d’Or on your CV means a job is pretty much guaranteed upon graduation. When a student wins, it is also uplifting for the entire class.”
The Nestlé Toque d’Or Innovation Award provides one of the most difficult challenges because there are no set criteria. The Award encourages risk taking and use of trial and error. The objective is to use several different Nestlé Professional products in new and interesting ways. The students’ clever use and documentation of Nestlé Professional products gave them the win in this competition.
“For instance, we used the coconut powder to soak some salmon skin and dried the skin out.” MAGGI Jus Lie reductions found their way into a variety of dishes, demonstrating the versatility of the flavouring. MAGGI Oyster Sauce complemented the salmon dish, while a NESTLÉ DOCELLO Royal Dark Chocolate Couverture mixture topped off the dessert.
Winning the Innovation Award meant that the school picked up a Moffat oven for future students to use. It was also packed full of cookbooks for the winners to divvy up. “However, at the end of it all, when they get to the competition and do well, it’s the sheer joy on their faces and the fact that they competed at Nestlé Toque d’Or which is the biggest prize of all. There are only around 24 chefs each year in New Zealand that can say that - it’s huge,” Chemis said.
Sponsors of this year’s event were: Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, vegetables.co.nz, Akaroa Salmon, House of Knives and Moffat.