Nestlé Professional has now opened this year's Toque d'Or competition in a bid to find and support the newest and best emerging talent in the hospitality industry.
The contest, which is in its 28th year, has now received a record 156 team entries from 68 catering colleges across the UK. These paper entries will now be judged, with 36 shortlisted teams going through to six regional heats to fight for a place in the Grand Finals, set to take place from 17-20 March.
The Grand Finals include a series of real-life challenges across a range of disciplines, before the final awards ceremony announces the overall winner in April.
This year's competition is based on the theme of nutrition, wellness, and health, and is designed to give students key skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in future. As in previous year, judges this year will be experts from across the hospitality industry.
Former entrants include Jamie Oliver and Anton Mosimann, while the 2015 winning team was Westminster Kingsway College, in a team made up of Rebecca Heath, Josie Thompson and Chris Davis.
Nestlé Professional has also emphasised the contest's role in nurturing young people at a time when the hospitality industry is facing a shortage of talent, especially among chefs, of which skills charity People 1st has said there would be need for 11,000 more by 2022.
Former Toque d'Or finalists include Bradford College, which has been entered into the competition for the past three years by chef lecturer Paul Johnson.
He added: "Whilst the content of the Toque d'Or sits alongside the national curriculum, it ignites a passion within young people to go above and beyond what they're learning in college, and takes skills to a whole new level. There's no better way for them to get their foot in the door when it comes to finding a job."
George Vezza, managing director at Nestlé Professional, said: "The hospitality industry needs young people; they are the lifeblood of the Industry. More students than ever are recognising the opportunities Toque d'Or opens up for them and, based on the standard of entries we've received, this year's judges will certainly have their work cut out."
This year's competition is in partnership with Nestlé Professional's Chef range of stocks, fumets and stock bases, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.