Nestlé Professional unveils shortlist of college students advancing to the National Heats in Toque d’Or 2024

As Toque d’Or’s 36th anniversary competition hots up, Nestlé Professional has announced the shortlist of college students who have made it through into the Heats. Taking place at The Grand Cookery School in York over 12 and 13 March 2024, the Heats will host 48 FOH and 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 and desire to enter to Toque d’Or, BOH and FOH 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 using a variety of Maggi® products, submitting a menu description and photos of the mise-en-place and final plated dish. Whereas FOH students created a coffee drink using Nescafé® Gold Blend Alta Rica, 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.

Katya Simmons, managing director Nestlé Professional UK&I said: “Now more than ever, the industry needs to come together to inspire the next generation of hospitality leaders and through our two youth programmes, Toque d’Or and the Choose Hospitality Pledge, we hope to achieve just that.

“Toque d’Or is one of my favourite events in the calendar year. It’s a good reminder of just how much future talent we have to look forward to as an industry. I’m delighted to welcome the 48 shortlisted candidates to the next stage of the competition. This year, the Heats has a fantastic judging panel comprising young industry talent like Chef Tom Booton, experts from within Nestlé Professional, and former Toque d’Or stars. Contestants are set to experience a learning opportunity of a lifetime, and I wish all of them the best of luck!”

During the Heats, BOH competitors will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of plant-based menus while FOH competitors will be able to learn about the art of customer service. The two action-packed days 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 also pass on their advice to this year’s cohort.

BOH judges for the Heats include:

• Tom Booton, executive chef of The Grill by Tom Booton (At The Dorchester)
• John Costello, senior confectioner, Nestlé Professional
• Paul Hawkins, development chef, Nestlé Professional
• Emily Simkins, 2023 BOH finalist, North Hertfordshire College

Tom Booton expressed his excitement: “This year’s competition is set to be one to remember with a truly impressive shortlist of candidates moving into the National Heats. It’s not just about the win though; it’s about the journey of growth, learning, and the chance to work with the best in our field. I’m eager to get going and can’t wait to be part of the action.”

FOH judges for the Heats include:

• Aaron Dunn and Jo Walsh, Nestlé Professional’s coffee trainers
• Antonia Macfarlane, 2018 FOH winner, City of Glasgow College
• Sophie Taylor, 2021 FOH winner, Edinburgh College
• Joshua Kerr, 2023 FOH winner, City of Glasgow College

Joining the Toque d’Or judging panel for the first time, Antonia Macfarlane, said: “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. I am thrilled to be involved as a FOH judge this year; it will be fantastic to see familiar faces and relive my own time in the competition.”