Now in its 27th year, the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or has established itself as the UK’s most competitive student catering competition.
Designed to promote hospitality careers and identify rising talent, the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or pits student teams against each other through a series of challenges, testing their ability to demonstrate skills and work together.
But the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or is not just a competition – the programme gives students a unique learning experience and access to masterclasses with leading industry professionals, workshops and practical experience in real-life hospitality situations.
Since 2014, the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or has been directly aligned to the college curriculum through a partnership with the Professional Association for Catering Education (PACE), meaning everything the students learn during the programme is directly relevant to their studies.
“Our contribution to the competition ensures that the experience of each young person aligns to their studies, adding genuine support to their wider education,” says Sue Kenyon, quality coordinator for PACE. “It is a truly inspirational initiative that adds real value to the training and development of the next generation of hospitality professionals.”
The partnership with PACE has certainly proved a winning formula for the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or, which attracted a record number of entries in 2015, with 140 teams from 75 colleges registering to take part.
The competition has also enjoyed unprecedented support from industry this year, with 2015 partners including Footprint, Rob Kennedy/Craft Guild of Chefs, James Tanner, Loch Fyne, PACE, The Wolseley, Firmdale Hotels and Will Smith/Arbutus – each of whom will offer the teams money-can’t-buy access to insight and expertise that will help carry them through their careers.
“What a great testament to our industry that many of the biggest names in hospitality are willingly giving their time and energy to help shape this year’s Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or – driven by their desire to support next generation skills and encourage talent,” says George Vezza, managing director of Nestlé Professional UK and Ireland.
“We are talking about working with industry ‘heros’ for many of our students and it is an incredible opportunity for them.”
The Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or is unique in that it tests both front- and back-of-house skills, and offers insight into all areas of the hospitality sector – with catering, casual dining, fine dining and pubs all areas that have been covered over the past 27 years.
Each college can enter up to three teams of three - comprising of a mix of front- and back-of-house students – to the competition, which is broken down into three main stages:
- Entry form – Student teams must submit a paper entry form based around a particular theme. The paper includes both knowledge-based questions drawn from the college syllabus and two essay questions asking their opinion on a particular issue. This year’s theme was sustainability and the paper was developed in conjunction with Footprint.
- Heats – This year, a record 36 teams were picked to go through to five regional heats, where they were given a masterclass before having to repeat what they learnt by preparing and serving a three-course meal to guests including Nestlé customers and potential employers.
- Finals – Just six teams were picked to go through to the final stage, which takes part across four days. The finals programme is kept strictly secret to test the students’ ability to think outside the box and adapt. Previous challenges have included cooking and serving meals on a busy Friday afternoon at La Tasca sites in London, serving VIPs in the O2 arena and creating a Ghurka curry with ghurkas at Worthy Down army barracks.
The finals of the 2015 Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or will take place on 18-22 March, and the winning team will be announced at a gala dinner on 21 April at The Dorchester.
The winners will receive work experience placements, an overseas study tour and a grant for their college to buy kitchen equipment. The other finalists will also get the grant.
Even the students who don’t go on to win the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or will have a huge advantage over their peers when it comes to launching their hospitality career. Not only will they have come in contact with potential employers as they progressed through the competition stages, but they will be associated with a programme that is increasingly recognised as one of the best training grounds for young talent.
“We’re seeing a growing movement by employers in their awareness of the advantages of recruiting a ‘Toque’ candidate and many of our past students have gone on to work with the finest establishments in the UK, whether as a chef, or in a front of house role,” says Vezza.
“Indeed, Nestlé Professional Toque D’Or enjoys a reputation for dramatically accelerating students’ career paths for those who participate, with past contestants working with the Fat Duck, Whatley Manor, Mosimanns, The Lanesborough and L’Ortolan, to name but a few.”
Previous graduates of the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or include Jamie Oliver and James Martin, and this year, Nestlé Professional is calling on all alumni of the programme to come forward and share their experiences. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_self">email@example.com if you are interested.
For further information on the competition, visit www.nestle-toquedor.co.uk. You can also follow the Finals event on Facebook or Twitter @NestleToquedor for the latest action as it happens.