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Toque d’Or finalists revealed with the winners set to embark on trip of a lifetime

A Toque d'Or chef giving a demonstration in front of an audience of cooks.
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Nestlé Professional has announced this year’s Toque d’Or competition finalists, following an action-packed Heats round which saw 48 students go head-to-head in a series of intense challenges across two days, at The Grand Cookery School in York.

The 12 Back of House (BOH) and Front of House (FOH) students advancing into the Grand Finals are:

Back of House

•    Daisy Glasper, Newcastle
•    Geraldine Sierra Torres, Westminster Kingsway
•    Amy Phillips, Cheshire
•    Lauren Laird, Perth
•    Ryan Isidro, Westminster Kingsway
•    Rohan Bragg, University College Birmingham

Front of House

•    Emma Bancroft, Coleg Cambria
•    Jasmine Ferdinando, York
•    Ashton Eaton-Preece, Loughborough
•    Maja Mazurkiewicz, Loughborough
•    Dylan Alexander, Ayrshire
•    Ryan James, Coleg Cambria

Katya Simmons, Managing Director Nestlé Professional UK and Ireland said: “We were delighted this year to host the Heats at The Grand Cookery School, a perfect venue for any budding chef or restaurateur to learn and develop their skills. Guided by our team of expert judges, the competitors set an incredible standard across both days and the high-level of talent on display was truly impressive. Our 12 finalists are in for an incredible experience during Finals Week, so I wish them the very best of luck and most importantly, to enjoy and make the most of their experience.”

The 48 students who competed at the Heats enjoyed an unforgettable learning experience and expert mentoring from the competition judges. BOH competitors were tasked with replicating a nutritious and sustainable plant-based main course created by Executive Chef Tom Booton who, in 2019, became the youngest chef to head up the kitchen at The Grill at The Dorchester. Garden Gourmet’s Sensational Pulled Fillet was used as the hero ingredient in his dish.

Tom Booton said: “I was so impressed with the competitors; their passion, hard work and determination really shone through in all the tasks we set them. They carry many of the key qualities needed to be successful in our industry and so it was difficult to separate them. It came down to the smallest of margins which just shows how competitive this year’s cohort has been.

“A huge congratulations to each of the competitors advancing into the Finals where they’ll continue on this incredible learning experience. And a huge well done to all the students who took part. Personally, it’s extremely positive to see just how much young talent we have to look forward to as an industry.”

Furthermore, BOH competitors created a gastro pub style dessert using Nestlé Professional’s range of Branded Dessert Ingredients, after watching a masterclass from Nestlé’s Senior Confectioner, John Costello, and Cherrytree Bakery’s New Product Development Manager, Martin Hargreaves.

Nestlé Professional’s Business Development Chef, Paul Hawkins, oversaw the BOH competition during the Heats, offering his expertise on plant-based diets. And 2023 BOH Toque d’Or finalist now guest judge, Emily Simkins, supported the students throughout the challenges.

FOH competitors served these dishes to 48 guests during lunch service across the two-day challenge together with wine and coffee. Supporting the students with a masterclass in wine and customer service were former FOH Toque d’Or winners, Antonia MacFarlane and Sophie Taylor. Competitors also learned about the complexity of coffee including how the growing region, grind size and brewing methods can impact the overall taste profile, in a masterclass delivered by Nestlé Professional coffee training specialists, Aaron Dunn and Jo Walsh. 2023 FOH Toque d’Or winner and now guest judge, Joshua Kerr, supported students during the series of challenges.

Joining the judging panel for the Finals will be award-winning chef and restaurateur, Tommy Banks, and winner of the 2023 Gold Service Scholarship and footman at The Royal Household, Jupiter Humphrey-Bishop. 

Looking ahead to Finals Week, Tommy Banks said: “With just over one month to go, the countdown to Toque d’Or 2024 Finals Week is well and truly on. After leaving the 2023 competition feeling inspired by the hard work, dedication and passion of the competitors, I’m really excited to be returning as judge in 2024.

“This is an action-packed stage of the competition that offers each student a learning experience of a lifetime on so many levels. Personally, I’m really looking forward to meeting this year’s cohort and getting the opportunity to mentor them on crucial topics such as sustainability and provenance, before the week culminates with the ultimate Fine Dining challenge.”

Ingredient sponsor for the Heats, Woods Foodservice, supplied fresh produce for both BOH and FOH challenges.

About Finals Week

The Grand Finals will take place from 21-25 April 2024, with the winners announced during the Awards lunch on Friday 7 June 2024.

The Finals will comprise a series of challenges built around the competition’s overarching theme of sustainability with a key focus on locally sourced produce. Competitors will get the opportunity to hone their skills while exploring the latest culinary trends and learning about farm-to-fork dining. Some challenges have been created by the competition judges, including the Fine Dining Challenge which will see BOH finalists replicate a menu created by two-Michelin star chef Tommy Banks.

Several high-profile foodservice and hospitality companies will be revealed as competition partners during the Grand Finals, with each creating their own bespoke challenge for students of which they will help judge.

About the winners trip

This year’s winners will embark on a once in a lifetime trip to Switzerland, where they will get to delve into Nestlé’s origins and Swiss heritage as they visit the company’s headquarters and the famous Nestlé chocolate factory. As well as getting an unforgettable gastronomic experience – savouring the very best food and drink the country has to offer – the winners will explore Switzerland’s breathtaking landscapes and popular tourist attractions.   

About Nestlé Professional  

At Nestlé Professional, hospitality is more than just a business. It is our business.   

For the hospitality industry, this means inspiring the next generation of culinary talent through Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or; striving in the field in Nutrition, Health and Wellness; and collaborating with the industry for a more sustainable future. From coffee to cocoa, and from food waste to water, we work with farmers, chefs and operators continually to help make strides towards sustainability.    

After all, for our partners and for the industry, hospitality is our business...