Shortlist for Toque d'Or national heats revealed

As Toque d'Or's 36th-anniversary competition kicks off, the shortlist of college students who have made it to the heats has been revealed. 

Organised by Nestlé Professional, the heats are set to take place at The Grand Cookery School in York on 12 and 13 March, hosting both front-of-house (FoH) and back-of-house (BoH) students. 

A total of 388 students from 46 colleges registered to take part in the entry stage of this year's competition. As well as having to record and upload a 30-second video to YouTube explaining their passion for hospitality, students were each tasked with a sustainability-based skills challenge. These were set by Rob Owen, executive business development chef at Creed Foodservice, and Nestlé Professional's coffee trainers Aaron Dunn and Jo Walsh. 

BoH entrants prepared and cooked a sustainable dish of their choice, submitting a menu description and photos of the mise-en-place and final plated dish. FoH students created their own coffee drink and laid up a table inspired by the same theme. Their entries were supported with a drink description and photos of the mise-en-place, final drink and laid-up table. 

The 2024 competition

During the heats, BoH competitors will have the chance to learn about the importance of plant-based menus, while FoH competitors will learn about the art of customer service. The two-day event will comprise a mix of judges from the industry, Nestlé Professional and former Toque d'Or competitors – both finalists and winners – providing a platform for them to continue to develop their knowledge and pass on advice to this year's cohort.

BoH judges for this year's heats include Tom Booton, executive chef of The Grill by Tom Booton (at The Dorchester); John Costello, senior confectioner at Nestlé Professional; Paul Hawkins, development chef at Nestlé Professional; and Emily Simkins from North Hertfordshire College, 2023 BoH finalist. 

FoH judges for the heats include Aaron Dunn and Jo Walsh, Nestlé Professional's coffee trainers; Antonia Macfarlane (pictured), 2023 FoH winner from City of Glasgow College; Sophie Taylor, 2021 FoH winner from Edinburgh College; and Joshua Kerr, 2023 FoH winner from City of Glasgow College.

"After first competing in 2017 and winning in 2018, I can confidently say that the Toque d'Or experience changes the trajectory of your career," says Macfarlane. "I am thrilled to be involved as a FoH judge this year. It will be fantastic to see familiar faced and relive my own time in the competition."

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