As the annual Nestlé Toque d’Or competition ushers in the country’s future hospitality stars, a small group of unsung heroes have been quietly playing a pivotal role without any fanfare – they are the plate runners.
Colloquially called by those involved in the event ‘The Venerable Royal and Ancient Society of Porcelain Carriers’, only a select few are ever inducted into it. Their task is perhaps one of the most important at the event – carefully carrying from kitchen to service area for judging the plates containing dishes specially created during the culinary competition. One slip up by the plate carrier can literally spell disaster and mean the end of a competitor’s dream of achieving top placement.
Now things are about to change with the moving on of long-standing chief plate runner Neil MacInnes. For 10 years he has diligently moved plates in all sorts of locations, avoided potential mishaps and ensured that competitors’ dishes got through for judging in the presentation-perfect style that was intended. Neil has decided to call time on his plate carrying days and officially handed over his duties to new inductee Ara Cookery & Bakery Tutor, Ryan Marshall, who joins Stuart Goodall, who is also a veteran of this very important role.
NZChefs National President Graham Hawkes said the role is an important one and rarely gets the recognition it deserves. “The plate runners play a central part in the competition. It begins with the runner checking the heat of the plate immediately on presentation and placing it on an appropriate coloured sticker indicating to the judge if the level of heat is correct or not. The food components are also checked in a similar way. From there, the carrier has to move the plate to the adjudication area taking extreme care not to disturb any of the components along the way. The end result should be a plate that is presented for judging exactly as the competitor planned.”
For Neil MacInnes being a part of the competition all these years has been a pleasure, as he has watched the many students come and go with their raw nerves and desire to succeed.
“Neil has been an expert plate runner and his contribution to the development of New Zealand’s culinary scene is to be applauded. It has been an honour to have had him and Stuart part of the Nestlé Toque d’Or team for all these years,” Graham said.
“Ryan has a lot to live up to as his picks up the plates at the next event. While he will be following in the footsteps of an expert runner we all know he’ll do Neil proud.”