Nestlé Professional is delighted to announce this year’s Toque d’Or® Competition winners.
First launched in 1989, this year the competition’s judges included former Toque d’Or winner turned food writer and influencer, Julie Jones, and MasterChef: The Professionals winner, Louisa Ellis. As a result, almost 1,000 BOH and FOH superstars registered to compete, representing 40 colleges and 40 businesses from across the UK.
With safety at the forefront, this year’s competition retained its trademark prestige and excitement through adopting a hybrid format. And during the gripping Grand Finals, 12 finalists went head-to-head in a week of challenges – performed both virtually and in a Covid-safe environment at the Nestlé Professional Gatwick HQ.
Each day offered a new challenge, encouraging finalists to develop new and hone existing skills, before putting them to use to impress the judges. All challenges focused on creating a high quality Toque d’Or® 2021 recipe book, Taste the Future. Finalists received world-class tuition from judges on all aspects including, recipe writing and creation, engaging personal biographies, food photography and social media. Competitors were asked to post about the experience using #Toquedor2021.
Judges gave tips and support over Zoom and parts of the challenges were completed virtually by finalists in their homes. At the Nestlé Professional HQ, they met fellow finalists and got the chance to showcase their skills – preparing and serving a balanced two-course meal as well as coffee and tea inspired drinks to VIP guests which included the Toque d’Or® judges.
With 76 BOH and 36 FOH students at the Heats, there was a remarkable array of talent on display. Once these had been whittled down to the 12 finalists, four winners were chosen in four separate categories.
Back of House Student winner Sarah Morton, New City College London, commented:
"Being in Toque d'Or, at any level, is such a worthwhile experience. Having my food scrutinised by the judges was nerve wracking but it also felt like a privilege I didn't come into the competition thinking I'd win at all. I'm excited to see where it leads me."
Back of House Apprentice winner Kenny Markham, Burnt Lemmon, commented: “Taking part has been a massive confidence boost. The competition not only improved my culinary talent, but it has also nurtured other important attributes such as public speaking and food photography which are all beneficial in furthering my career."
Front of House Student winner Sophie Taylor, Edinburgh College, commented: "This was the second time I'd entered. Last year the finals were virtual, which was still amazing given the circumstances, but this year it was so great to be back all together for the final. It really is unlike any other competition – it's such a bonding experience and everyone is so welcoming and helpful. I'd encourage anyone considering entering to go for it. Taking part has opened doors and introduced me to people I’d never have imagined."
Front of House Apprentice winner Georgia Wheatley, University College Birmingham, commented: “It’s such a prestigious competition; to know that I’m up there in the Nestle Hall of Fame is really nice. The other competitors were lovely too. There’s a good couple of friendships that will last me for a long, long time.”
Katya Simmons, Managing Director of Nestlé Professional UK&I, says: “A huge, heartfelt congratulations to the winners! We are so proud of all the contestants who took part: the standard has never been so high. It’s more important than ever to support young talent within the hospitality industry, equipping them with the experience and skills to succeed in their careers. We are delighted to be able to do exactly that with Toque d’Or.
And we are ever grateful to our fantastic panel of judges. As well as giving our finalists solid skills based on real-world experience, they’ve served as an inspiration to competitors throughout.”
Alongside Julie Jones and Louisa Ellis, this year’s competition judges included educator and drinks expert Alison Taffs, Robert Smith from Shuttersmith, and training specialists Aaron Dunn and Ryan Burke from Nestlé Azera.
A virtual awards ceremony, presented by TV personality Mark Durden-Smith, took place on 30 July and was streamed live via Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or’s YouTube channel. If you missed it, you can watch the big reveal here.
To hear about the competitors, and to experience the competition buzz on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, check out the #Toquedor2021 hashtag.