Hospitality Business Magazine

Top hospitality students line up for live kitchen battle

2016 UCOL competitor Summer Dennison.

Top hospitality students from around the country have confirmed their involvement in this year’s national culinary competition which determines who are the country’s emerging culinary and restaurant service superstars.

Putting it all on the line at the annual Nestlé Toque d’Or competition will be 30 students from the country’s leading training institutes.

NZChefs National President and organiser of the event, Graham Hawkes, said the students have all signed up for what will be a gruelling training schedule in the run up to the big event.

“Many of the students will spend months training for the big day, while also juggling work and study commitments.

Nestlé Toque d’Or which has been running for over 26 years, is considered by those in the industry to be the premier student culinary and front of house competition in New Zealand.

“Hotly contended, the goal is to create and deliver an award-winning menu to special guests attending the event on competition day,” Graham said.

“Last year, a team from the Universal College of Learning in Palmerston North took out the top title. They won’t be returning to defend the title this year so it is destined to be claimed by another region that is determined to make its mark in the culinary stakes.”

The 10 institutes competing this year are:

  • ARA Institute of Canterbury – Timaru
  • AUT University
  • Eastern Institute of Technology
  • North Shore International Academy
  • New Zealand Defence Force
  • Otago Polytechnic Central Otago Campus
  • Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Tauranga Campus
  • Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Rotorua Campus
  • Wellington Institute of Technology
  • Wintec

Each of the institutes select a team comprising three of their top students – two culinary and one restaurant service. Competitors converge in Auckland during July to compete against one another in a simulated live kitchen environment.

“Tensions are high and the pressure is on throughout to get it right and avoid any costly mistakes that could lead to lost points. The menus the students create and deliver to guests on the day must be as close to perfect as possible, if they want to be named the winning team.”

Further adding to the pressure is the fact that their menus and service must be completed within a set timeframe. All of this done under the constant gaze of onlookers watching the event, as well as a panel of top local and international industry judges who mark their every move against a tough World Chef’s judging criteria.

“If they want to get it right on the day, it takes nerves of steel and everyone in the team working together as a tight unit.”

All of the teams are given in advance a list of ingredients that they can use to create menus that they think will impress the judges. Included in this year’s line-up of ingredients are: Nestlé Professional products, fresh and seasonal New Zealand grown vegetables, New Zealand lamb and Akaroa Salmon.

“Aside from the highly competitive aspect, the event also opens doors to new career opportunities with influential culinary professionals scouting the event for fresh talent.”

Nestlé Toque d’Or will be held on Thursday 27 July at the Auckland Showgrounds. An awards dinner will be held later in the evening at the Heritage Hotel where the winning team will be announced.