Finalists of Toque d’Or 2020 heats announced

Nestlé Professional has revealed the 12 college students and 12 apprentices who took the top spot at the coveted Toque d’Or National Heats last week and secured a place to compete in the Grand Finals taking place week commencing 27 April.

Competing in the National Heats, which took place across the country in Glasgow, Birmingham, Westminster and Gatwick, were a total of 78 aspiring hospitality superstars who battled it out in front of a live audience and panel of expert judges.

The college students and apprentices of both chefs and front of house professionals all took part in a series of challenges and masterclasses focused around the holistic relationship between food, sustainability and nutrition.

For the back of house students and apprentices this meant watching a masterclass in preparing a two-course menu of beetroot risotto and a rhubarb, ginger and clementine posset accompanied by shortbread biscuits, to replicate and serve to the watching judges and guests diners.

New for this year is the Front of House award, where the industry’s budding baristas, service champions and aspiring managers were tasked with showcasing five-star service, sommelier skills and cocktail crafting for the guests, after taking part in a customer service masterclass. The skills of the back of house and front of house competitors were then put to the test as they teamed up to serve one table of two guests.

Judges for the National Heats included hospitality mogul, Alison Taffs; Group Operations and Development Chef at Principal Hotels, Adam Bateman; Hospitality consultant, Miriam Garstang; and new to the competition this year, Ruth Hansom, the first female to win Young National Chef of the Year. The judges were looking for technical skill, an understanding of nutritional menus, minimal food waste and sustainable ingredients, five-star service and passion from the competitors.

Those which stood out the most to the judges and are, therefore, going through to the Grand Finals are:

Student Back of House
Ben Smith, Tameside College
Erica Agyei, University of Derby
Joshua O'Reilly, The Sheffield College
Katherine Altham, Kendal College
Kian Marshall, Newcastle College
Vasileios Xanthopoulus, City of Glasgow College

Student Front of House
Alex Dick, City of Glasgow College
Eleanor Dee, Ayrshire College
Josh Tellwright, University of Derby
Patrick Murray, Vision West Notts
Sophie Taylor, Edinburgh College
Taylor Corkery, Farnborough College of Technology

Apprentice Back of House
Andrej Zak, Eccles Hotel & Spa
Ben Dullea, Pomona's
Fergus Chalmers, The Polecat Inn
Jack Clarke, East India Club
Lily Stock Boodle's, St James's
Mohit Kaku, Eccles Hotel & Spa

Apprentice Front of House
Ciro Pizzi, Nirvana Spa
Chelsie Robinson, The Cross Keys Stow
Emad Shehata, Prima Pizza and Pasta
Rosie Burvill, The Westleton Crown
Tegan Taylor, Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa
Ziggy Ward, The Orchard Café

Commenting on this year’s heats, Ruth Hansom, said, “As my first year judging the competition it was inspiring to see just how passionate and hungry to succeed the competitors are – there was some serious talent taking part. It’s going to be an exciting ride for those that have made it through to the Grand Finals. It’s amazing to see the competitors so engaged with the Sustainable Futures theme, it’s really apparent just how connected the future faces of hospitality are to this topic and competitions like Nestle Professional®’s Toque d’Or provide the perfect platform for this interest to grow.”

Katya Simmons, Managing Director at Nestlé Professional® UK&I, added: “We saw some of the most challenging heats yet, but the talent shone through. We’re looking forward to giving the finalists the journey of a lifetime as we progress to the next stage of the competition.

“Through this year’s competition and workshops the contestants are exploring the holistic relationship between health, sustainability and nutrition and will shine a spotlight on how the hospitality industry can empower consumers in making better choices for themselves and the planet. It has been fantastic to see the contestants really getting to grips with this challenge during the National Heats and I’m excited to see what creations the finalists come up with during the Grand Finals – it’s one not to be missed!”