Young chefs from Glasgow triumph at Toque d’Or competition

Glasgow City College scoop the 2014 Nestlé Toque d’Or award, reports Michael Jones

Talented youngsters from Glasgow City College were announced as the winners of the UK’s prestigious Nestlé Toque d’Or competition. The win sees the trophy return to Scotland for the sixth time in the 26-year history of Nestlé Toque d’Or.

The students, Nikola Plhakova, Aoife Munro, and Murray McDavid, were announced by Neil Stephens, managing director of Nestlé Professional, in front of 300 industry guests at the Dorchester Hotel in London on Wednesday 2 March.

The award, now in its 26th year, gives UK catering and hospitality students the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, pitting a succession of catering schools across the UK against each other via a series of gruelling heats. In the past the awards have helped to launch the careers of popular celebrity chefs such as James Martin and Jamie Oliver.

The winning team beat five other high-performing colleges to take the trophy after a challenging four-day grand final in March that included teams from Westminster Kingsway, City of Liverpool, Ayrshire College, Gloucester College Five Acres Campus and Bradford College.

Speaking on the night, McDavid, who represented the team’s back of house operations, said, “We were aware we were up against some really strong teams so are incredibly proud to be able to take the trophy back to Scotland and to Glasgow City College. The entire experience has been fantastic, and we have all learned so much that will stay with us for the rest of our careers.

“The Grand Finals tested us to our limit but also gave us a real confidence boost that we could operate in the real world and we now all look forward to our next steps now the competition is over, in whatever direction they may take us.”

Neil Stephens said, “As observers we perhaps do not always appreciate the pressure that competitions put participants under, especially one such as Nestlé Toque d’Or which tests the mettle of each student with a wide range of challenges.

“And yet, as ever, the bar has been raised at this year’s event as each team not only stayed cool throughout the Grand Finals but also demonstrated knowledge and abilities well beyond their years. I am sure that they look forward to a bright future in the industry and wish them the very best of luck for their next steps.”

2014 saw some significant changes to the entry, heats and grand finals format. The competition saw students undertake a full education programme in addition to facing some of the toughest challenges in the competition’s history. These included a stint running the front and back of house operations in top chef Alan Murchison’s Michelin-starred L’Ortolan restaurant in Shinfield, Berkshire.

Every team that participated in the paper entry stage was recognised for their efforts and receive a prize from Toque d’Or. Teams that successfully moved on to the heats and graduated to the grand finals were also rewarded for their achievement with various prizes for themselves and their colleges, including work placements, master classes, catering equipment and a place on the unique Toque d’Or study trip.

Michael Jones

 

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