The 2023 Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or winners have returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Brazil, where they enjoyed some of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo's most exclusive restaurants and bars.
The winners also followed ‘bean to cup’ journeys, experiencing regenerative farming in coffee and cocoa farms, before seeing the beans transformed into high quality coffee in a Nescafé flavour lab.
As part of its commitment to young hospitality talent, each year Toque d’Or supports participants to bridge the gap between classroom learning and the realities of the industry.
This year’s 35th-anniversary edition was no different and competitors went head-to-head in a string of inspiring, sustainability-based challenges. During the Grand Finals, finalists visited Brough Castle Farm, part of the First Milk co-operative of sustainable farms supplying Nestlé, competed in a coffee and confectionery challenge after visiting the KitKat® factory and then battled it out in the Fine Dining Challenge under the supervision of chef Tommy Banks.
Joshua Kerr from City of Glasgow College and Amber Clay from University College Birmingham won the competition, and on July 20, they embarked on an exclusive trip to Brazil for a once in a lifetime gastronomic tour of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Espírito Santo.
The winning pair dined at Michelin-starred restaurants in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, enjoying Brazilian gastronomy at Oro and Japanese cuisine at Imakay, and exclusive pork-only restaurant, Casa da Porco. Exploring Brazil’s top landmarks was also on the menu – by helicopter, boat and foot - including Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana, Guanabara Bay and the world’s biggest urban forest in Rio, Floresta da Tijuca.
During an exclusive 'bean to cup' coffee tour, the winners learned how regenerative farming techniques are helping to reverse the effects of climate change and improve yields for farmers at a Nescafé Plan coffee farm. They also sampled different coffees and learned how to differentiate high quality coffee beans at the Nescafé Coffee Quality Lab.
Brazilian coffee farmer, Luiza Bonobo, said: “Coffee’s flavour is influenced by the climate, how the soil was treated, and the quantity of nutrients within the soil.
“We’re going back to organic farming methods for our crops, which means the soil retains more water, bringing more nutrients and minerals to the plants. We plant a variety of trees in the farm, creating a better microclimate that does not stress the coffee trees. We control irrigation, using the ideal quantity of water for the time of the year and day. We also manage the soil to bring more nutrients to the plants and use biological products to prevent or control disease.”
The theme continued during a visit to a Nestlé Cocoa Plan cocoa farm, that, in line with Nestlé's Net Zero commitments, is transitioning to regenerative farming techniques to improve long-term resilience as well as yields.
Toque d’Or 2023 Front of House winner, Joshua Kerr, said: “The food here in Brazil is absolutely amazing. They've got such an international array of foods - from Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants to traditional Brazilian barbecues.
"I really enjoyed being at the cocoa farm in Espirito de Santo seeing the farmers harvesting the cocoa. I was so impressed by how Nestlé look after the sustainability aspects of the farm and the farmers as well.”
Toque d’Or 2023 Back of House winner, Amber Clay said: “Going to the coffee farm was really, really exciting. Learning about how Nestlé are supporting farmers to change the way coffee is farmed to make it more sustainable; increasing biodiversity so as not to create a monoculture.
“Equally, I was really surprised that they grow black pepper next to coffee. I'd never known about that. For me as a chef, it was really interesting to see all the pepper plants."
Katya Simmons, Managing Director of Nestlé Professional UK&I, said: "Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or exemplifies our commitment to supporting young hospitality talent, and every year we're proud to watch these young people grow as they progress through the competition. This year we were particularly proud to give the winners an exclusive look around some of our top Brazilian farms, which, with our help, are transitioning to regenerative farming practices.
"Congratulations once again to Joshua and Amber. They've shown amazing resilience in the face of some tough challenges, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress in their future careers."
As part of its work supporting youth in an industry that deals with worker shortages, Nestlé Professional is collaborating with Choose Hospitality, Springboard, CareerScope and other industry leaders to deliver on the Choose Hospitality Pledge. Aimed at encouraging young people into the diverse roles that hospitality has to offer, the pledge sends ambassadors out to speak to school leavers, engaging youngsters and showcasing some of the exciting opportunities that exist in hospitality.
For more information on Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or 2023, click here.