The team from University College Birmingham (UCB), made up of Jack Gameson, Katie Lewis and Megan Lyke have been named as the winners of the 2016 Nestlé Professional Toque d'Or at an awards lunch held at The Dorchester Hotel in London last Friday.
Now in their 28th year, the student competition has consistently celebrated the industry's rising stars and the team from UCB join an alumni of previous Toque d'Or winners including the legendary chef and restaurateur, Anton Mosimann, who joined George Vezza, managing director of Nestlé Professional on stage to present the award
Speaking after the event, James Tanner, chairman of judges, highlighted the importance of the competition and the role it plays in nurturing skills and inspiring talented youngsters: "This year, I have been completely bowled over by the passion, commitment and sheer talent that has shone through at every stage of the competition. It has been truly awe-inspiring. We may be in the midst of a talent crisis, but the level of passion and commitment demonstrated by these youngsters has been unquestionable."
Lyke (who also entered the competition in 2015), said: "Toque is different to every other competition. It is life changing; we know people will look at us differently. It has given us a stepping stone to our future with contacts, connections and experience."
The winning team will now receive a range of money-can't-buy experiences to further enhance their CV's delivered over the course of the coming year.
Supported by partners including HIT Training and People First and chefs Simon Hulstone, chef patron of The Elephant in Torquay, and James Hill, former Nestlé Professional Toque d'Or winner and owner of Number 34 - Bar & Restaurant in Carlisle. This year, apprentices from a range of businesses took part, including: Hotel du Vin, Holiday Inn, Royal Garden Hotel, Mansion House, Sandhurst Military Academy, Grosvenor Hotel and Eton.
George Vezza, explained: "After 28 years, Toque d'Or has evolved and is a brand associated with promoting talent, raising aspirations and delivering opportunity, and one that has helped launched the careers of thousands of chefs and managers around the world.
"In an exciting move, and in light of the skills shortage, the development of the apprentice competition heralds a new era - recognising the growing importance of vocational training in hospitality."
The inaugural winner of the 2016 competition was revealed as Luka Seddon, apprentice commis Chef, CH & Co, who faced strong competition in a gruelling two-day event at Hospitality House in London in May where the competitors faced a series of challenges including a culinary invention test, a 'Question of Catering' challenge, and a Dragons' Den style presentation, designed to test their knowledge, creativity, communication and entrepreneurial skills across a host of different sectors.
Commenting on her win, Seddon said: "This is such an unexpected honour and I am so proud of myself and my company for giving me this opportunity. I would encourage any apprentice to take part in toque D'Or to help them build confidence and success."
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