When Mikey Newlands competed at Nestlé Toque d’Or in 2002, he never imagined that one day he would ‘turn the tables’ and return to the prestigious student culinary event as a judge.

photocat mikey newlands 2As the Head Chef of Bracu Restaurant and The Pavilion which is located at the expansive Simunovich Olive Oil Estate in Auckland, Mikey’s working days are far removed from when he was training to be a chef at Massey University.

As he lives on site at the Estate, his mornings are spent foraging and tending the gardens.

“I intend to have chickens, ducks and some rare breed cattle on site before the end of this year.”

Having worked as a chef for nearly 12 years, he has notched up an impressive career. Some of the highlights have included working under Andrew McConnell at Circa in Melbourne, The Ledbury and Tom Aikens in London, and closer to home at The Grove in Auckland.

While in London he was offered a unique opportunity to work in the South of France at the private summer house of entrepreneur and philanthropist Joel Cadbury and his sister Lady Sophy Farr.

Since returning to New Zealand in 2009, Mikey is keen to give something back to the country and help evolve the “amazing potential” that the New Zealand hospitality industry holds.

“When the opportunity to judge at Nestlé Toque d’Or came up, I immediately saw it as an ideal way to make a meaningful contribution to the young students that put their all into this event.

“This country is an exciting place to be right now, as new culinary trends driven locally start to emerge and take hold. I’m excited about the future and the young talent and huge opportunities that exist here in New Zealand.”

When Mikey takes to the competition floor in August, he will join an impressive line-up of industry professionals and top names. Together, they take on the daunting task of deciding which team will take out the top title at the live cook off event.

This year’s panel of judges includes:


Paul Jobin – Head Judge Food & Beverage Director

The Riverhead

Anita Sarginson Operations Manager

Flying Burrito Brothers

Phillip Russell Operations Manager

Compass Group NZ

Jeremy Schmid The Officers Mess Function Centre
Tobias Wilkinson Chef Tutor

Culinary Institute of New Zealand

Geoff Scott Chef/Owner

Vinnies by Geoff Scott

Mark Sycamore Executive Chef

Tequila Mockingbird Restaurant and Bar

Nancye Pirini Executive Chef

Jet Park Auckland Airport Hotel

Brenton Low Chef/Owner

à Deco

Mikey Newlands Head Chef

Bracu Restaurant & The Pavilion

Richard Hingston Kitchen Manager

Christchurch Casino

Sarah Harrap Pastry Chef

Criollo Chocolates and Desserts

Nicolas Bonnaud Sous Chef and Head Pastry Chef

Peter Gordon’s The Sugar Club

Tik Wang Tan Culinary Arts Lecturer

Waiariki Institute of Technology

Janine Quaid Managing Director

Renard Group Ltd

John Snowball Food and Beverage Manager


Amanda Turner Hospitality Management Tutor

North Tec

Manu Rosier Sales and Marketing Executive

Macvine International Ltd

Kerry Tyack Author, Commentator and Consultant

Aside from Mikey also new to the judging panel this year is: Manu Rosier, Amanda Turner, Tik Wang Tan, Nicolas Bonnaud, Sarah Harrap, Brenton Low, and Tobias Wilkinson.

Taking up the mantle of leading the team as Chief Judge is high profile chef and leading culinary figure Paul Jobin.

Organiser of this year’s Nestlé Toque d’Or competition – National President of the NZCA and Operations Manager of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Anita Sarginson – said she is delighted with the line-up of judges.

“Collectively, they bring a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry gained both locally and internationally,” Anita said.

“Many of them have achieved successes at international culinary competitions, currently hold a range of judges’ qualifications and have been awarded for their achievements in their particular fields of expertise.”

She said it was wonderful to see former Nestlé Toque d’Or competitor Mikey Newlands returning to the event to share his knowledge and experience with a new group of competitors.

“Having Paul Jobin on board as Chief Judge is a coup, given his significant experience in the hospitality industry. We’re also pleased to see such highly regarded professionals like Geoff Scott and Jeremy Schmid also returning for another year to share their skills and knowledge, and support New Zealand’s young up-and-coming hospitality students.

“They, along with the rest of the panel, will bring a depth and level of experience to the judging process that will not only help to determine this year’s winning team but provide valuable input and feedback to the competing students.  To have gained their involvement in this year’s event, given their busy schedules and work commitments, demonstrates how committed they all are to helping support the next generation of culinary stars.

“As always, students will need to be in top form when they step out onto the competition floor. When the clock starts ticking, there will be no room for error and any mistake that is made won’t go unnoticed. The pressure will most certainly be on but that’s what makes competing in this event such a dynamic and exciting opportunity for the students involved.”

The 24th Nestlé Toque d’Or competition will be held at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau Auckland on Monday 18 August 2014.

Sponsors of this year’s event are: Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, vegetables.co.nz, Akaroa Salmon, House of Knives and Moffat.


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