The grand final of the Nestlé Toque d'Or, organised by Nestlé Professional, is under way today with student teams from eight of the UK's catering colleges battling it out for the crown.
The teams will encounter a range of exciting catering scenarios, including a task with the British Army and an initiative involving a group of industry-recognised catering entrepreneurs.
The competition takes place over four consecutive days, and the first challenge kicks off today at the Defence Food Services School (DFSS) at Worthy Down Camp, led by the Cookery Training Squadron (Army). The student catering teams from Blackpool and The Fylde College, Hull College, Liverpool Community College, Petroc, Sheffield City College, Shrewsbury College, South Downs College and Westminster Kingsway College will be put through their paces by members of the British Army.
The task has been designed to take students out of their comfort zone and encourage them to think "on their feet" in preparation for the many real scenarios that occur every day in the hospitality industry.
The teams will be provided with a 10-man ration pack (as used by the Armed Forces) and asked to prepare a nutritious, appetising, two-course meal that would sustain a soldier in combat. All preparation and cooking is carried out outdoors and under canvas, using an improvised kitchen and within a tight time frame. Marks will be awarded for the students' ability to adapt, teamwork, pace and initiative.
The second challenge - new to this year's competition - sees teams presenting their restaurant concepts and business plans to successful industry personalities including Richard Pursey, chairman of the 10 In 8 group, celebrity chef James Tanner and entrepreneur Geoff Ward.
Commenting on the importance of this new element of the competition, Toque d'Or judge Stephen Mannock MIH, general manager of Wivenhoe House, home of the Edge Hotel School, said: "All too often, students embark on catering courses with pipe dreams of owning their own business without having really thought through what this actually means. The Nestlé Toque d'Or forces students to think long and hard about their restaurant concept and everything involved in making their vision a reality.
Neil Stephens, managing director for Nestlé Professional, added "I am proud that Nestlé Professional is able to deliver a programme that really builds on the skills of the next generation of our industry. Nestlé Toque d'Or acts as a gateway to a unique set of catering scenarios that most students would not otherwise have the chance to engage with. And it goes further than this; it gives students access to a community of experienced industry professionals whose experience, insights and advice are invaluable in helping shape their careers and employability.
"I extend my personal thanks to all the industry professionals who continue to support the Nestlé Toque d'Or and help us provide a lifetime's experience in one competition."
The winning team will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Dorchester hotel on Friday 29 June. For more information visit www.nestle-toquedor.co.uk.
By Lisa Jenkins
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