Having fought off tough competition from seven other finalists from around the country, the winning team was unveiled at the Grand Final Awards ceremony held at the Dorchester hotel on London’s Park Lane earlier today.
“Big congratulations to Westminster Kingsway, said James Tanner, chairman of the Toque d’Or judges. “The consistently high standards we see in this competition never cease to amaze me and the students always rise to the challenge, no matter what the task in hand.”
The eight finalists competed in the four-day Grand Finals eventfrom 17 - 20 May, where students were put through their paces, exposed to a wide and varied range of 'real-life' hospitality scenarios.
In what was the 24th year of the culinary competition, Toque d'Or took on a new format, doing away with the first round paper entries and putting more emphasis on exposing students to 'real life' hospitality scenarios.
The first challenge kicked off the Defence Food Services School (DFSS) at Worthy Down, led by the Army’s Cookery Training Squadron. The task was specifically designed to take students out of their comfort zone and encourage them to think ‘on their feet’ in preparation for the many real scenarios that occur every day in the hospitality industry.
From the battlefield to business planning, the second challenge saw teams presenting their restaurant concepts and business plan to successful industry personalities including Richard Pursey - chairman of the 10 In 8 fine-dining group - chef James Tanner and entrepreneur Geoff Ward.
Four teams then went to the O2 to experience how they produce fine food in a large events destination, while the other four teams had to create, prepare and serve a gala dinner for 24 VIP guests from a ‘mystery box’ of ingredients.
Finally, industry experts including Stephen Mannock (from The Edge Hotel School), David Rust (of Whitbread) and Tanner discussed with the students how to ‘upscale’ an operation with consistency, before the students then had to present back to the judges on how they would upscale their own restaurant concept.
Tanner added: “From business planning to outdoor catering using an improvised field kitchen with the British Army, to providing VIP hospitality for the suites at the O2, to a Gala Dinner for industry guests - this year’s Toque d’Or really lived up to its reputation as being the industry’s most challenging student catering competition.
“It’s fantastic to be so involved in a competition that plays such a pivotal role in developing the future of hospitality talent.”
The eight finalists included:
- Westminster Kingsway College (winner)
- Blackpool & The Fylde College
- Hull College
- Liverpool Community College
- Sheffield City College
- Shrewsbury College
- South Downs College
Vince Cottam, lecturer at the victorious Westminster Kingsway College, added: “I thought this years’ experience for the students was truly amazing - they were really encouraged to think on their feet and the new format helped develop their leadership and teamwork skills as well as exposing them to once in a lifetime catering experiences. My students are still talking about it now.
Strength and character
“Toque d’Or is a special competition and a really prestigious award that puts your name on the map. All colleges should enter as it’s a great experience, not just for the students but for the college as well.”
Nestlé Professional managing director Neil Stephens congratulated the teams, adding: “Westminster Kingsway and indeed all of our finalists demonstrated tremendous strength of character and skill that belies their age.
“They should all be proud of what they have achieved and there is no doubt in my mind that each and every one of them has a bright future ahead.”