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Drew Dawson is a culinary name to watch as The Ned’s apprentice chef is crowned winner of the Toque d’Or 2019 competition

University College Birmingham wins the college section of the esteemed Toque d’Or competition, its fifth win in the gastronomic competitions in 31 years

nestle professional sales director steve norris with toque dor 2019 apprentice winner drew dawson
Photo: Steve Norris, Nestle Professional Sales Director, and Apprentice winner Drew Dawson

Nestlé Professional, the out of home foodservice solutions provider of Nestlé, has announced the winners of the prestigious Toque d’Or 2019 competition. Each year the rigorous competition awards a college team and an individual apprentice.

The 2019 apprentice winner was Drew Dawson from The City’s 5* hotel and members’ club The Ned and the college winners were the University College Birmingham. It is the fifth time University College Birmingham has won the college accolade since 2010, most recently picking up the title in 2017.

toque dor 2019 university college birmingham winners with katya simmons from nestle professional
Katya Simmons from Nestlé Professional with College winners Yasmine Selwood, Luke Hayward, Neil Rippington (lecturer) and Faiha Ahmed from University College Birmingham

This year’s stars were revealed at a VIP awards lunch at the Royal Lancaster London in a ceremony hosted by television presenters Mark Durden Smith and Angellica Bell. The winners had been left in suspense for the results following an intense four-day Grand Finals held at the beginning of May. The 12 college and apprentice Grand Finalists experienced the true breadth of the industry with challenges including:

  • WSET Level One training (and exam) at English vineyard Denbies, followed by wine tasting and a tour of the vineyards and wine cellars
  • Fast-paced shifts under the watchful eye of chef James Tanner at unique dining and drinking venue Smiths of Smithfield
  • Recreating and serving a three-course fine dining sustainable menu developed by Simon Hulstone at the luxurious landmark Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel
  • Harvesting vegetables before creating their own sustainable vegetarian dish at family-run Watts Farm in Dartford

Speaking about the Toque d’Or 2019 competition, Katya Simmons, Managing Director, Nestlé Professional UK & Ireland, said: “This is a life-changing moment for our winners. The unique opportunity to develop their knowledge in all aspects of the industry and work alongside high-profile experts and chefs, the competition has paved the way for their future careers. The winners’ creativity in their approach to the challenges really set them apart from the pack and they have set an incredibly high standard for next year’s competition.”

Yasmine Selwood from University College Birmingham said: “I’m a mother of four, and an older student and this competition has proved that I can do anything I put my mind to. There really is no limit to what you can achieve. The secret is believing in yourself and being open to new opportunities when they arise.”

Luke Haywood from University College Birmingham added, “I came into this competition slightly daunted and not knowing what to expect, but we’ve grown together as a team and developed a really close bond.

“I think competitions like this are great because the industry is always changing and Toque d’Or provides the perfect platform to get you up to speed with all the latest trends and developments in the industry.”

Apprentice winner, Drew Dawson from The Ned also spoke about his experience: “I’m absolutely over the moon! It’s an experience of a lifetime and I’m so lucky to have been given this opportunity.

“Competitions like this show just how supportive the industry is, giving young people the opportunity to do great things.

“I think the best part of the competition was meeting the farmers and really understanding the supply chain and how everything fits together.”

This year’s Toque d’Or competition focused on sustainable futures. “For us at Nestlé Professional, sustainability covers everything from food sourcing through to talent sourcing and retention”, said Katya Simmons. “Rewarding career opportunities, innovation and creativity are exciting prospects for young talent, so it’s important the industry works together to celebrate its creativity and attract fresh talent.”

Now in its 31st year, Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or is one of the UK’s most influential industry competitions, bridging the gap between the theories of the classroom, work-based learning and the exciting reality of the industry. With over 400 registrations, this year’s competition received record levels of interest.

For more information about Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or and to get involved with next year’s competition visit: