Christchurch chefs back in the race for the golden hat

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Published on March 07, 2012 with No Comments

Front of house serving at Toque d'Or 2011

Front of house serving at Toque d'Or 2011

With the February 2011 earthquake behind them, Christchurch culinary students are gearing up for the prestigious annual Nestlé Toque d’Or competition on August 20.

The Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) students will join young chefs from 11 other culinary schools to compete for top honours. CPIT students were unable to compete at last year’s competition after the February earthquake damaged their building.

CPIT chef trainer, Dennis Taylor, says last year they had no access to their training facilities.

“CPIT was in the red zone. There was immediate damage to the school facilities, so we were out of action for around six weeks. Coming back to Nestlé Toque d’Or this year is a major step forward for CPIT and we’re pleased to be back up and running again.”

Having previously won the competition 13 times, Taylor says the team is more determined than ever to take on the competition.

“This will be one of our hardest years at Nestlé Toque d’Or because when you miss a year, you can lose momentum. However, this year’s students will be back with an even stronger attitude and a determination to take back the title.

“Right now we’re in the early stages of planning, with admin work and initial preparation towards the competition currently underway.  While we’ve definitely had a bit of a shake-up, it’s now our turn to give the rest of the country a shake-up.”

This year there are also changes to the way the event is being run, with Nestlé Professional forging a partnership with the New Zealand Chefs Association (NZCA) to co-manage the event.  The new relationship will build on a platinum sponsorship arrangement that Nestlé Professional currently has in place with the NZCA.

President of the NZCA and operations manager of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Anita Sarginson, says Nestlé Toque d’Or is a wonderful event to be part of and the whole of the NZCA is looking forward to applying its expertise to the competition.

“The NZCA is this year looking to ease into the competition and continue to build on the good work that has already been achieved by Nestlé Professional and the previous event manager Pip Duncan and chief judge Mark Wylie,” Sarginson says.

Participating institutes are required to put forward a team of three students – two culinary and one restaurant service – to compete at the event.  Teams are required to prepare six covers of a three-course meal within a set timeframe and deliver the dishes to attending guests.  On competition day, a panel of judges comprising top industry professionals will scrutinise their every move assessing them against a strict judging criteria.

“Students will be scored across a numbers of areas including: taste, service of food, presentation, food preparation and hygiene. They must create their own unique menus using predetermined ingredients, including: Nestlé Professional products, fresh and seasonal New Zealand grown vegetables, Zealfresh Beef and Akaroa Salmon.”

Sarginson says the best advice she can give to competitors entering this year is to train hard, listen to their mentors and put in lots of practise.

Having been involved with the event for seven years,  Sarginson says it is her belief that the competition is synonymous with the quest for excellence within the industry.

“This is particularly evident within the restaurant area, where we often see skills that are far above those currently being displayed in the industry.”

Culinary schools who have  signed up for this year’s event include: Auckland University of Technology; Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology; NorthTec – Whangarei; Universal College Of Learning (UCOL)- Palmerston North; Wellington Institute of Technology (WELTEC); Hospitality and Tourism Training Centre – Cook Islands; Manukau Institute of Technology; Aoraki Polytechnic; Otago Polytechnic – Central Otago Campus; Culinary Institute of New Zealand- Kerikeri; Waiariki Institute of Technology- Rotorua; Defence Catering School (NZ)- Waiouru.

Last year, Wellington Institute of Technology took out first prize.

The 2012 Nestlé Toque d’Or winning team will receive $2000 each and $1000 for their institution. A Moffat oven worth over $4000 will also be awarded to the team who best demonstrates innovation using Nestlé Professional products across their menu or in a particular dish.

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the Nestlé Toque d’Or competition and will be sponsored by Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb New Zealand,, Akaroa Salmon and The House of Knives.

Nestlé Toque d’Or will be held on Monday 20 August at the ASB showgrounds, Greenlane in Auckland.

Photos by Cynthia Daly

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