Toque d'Or 2019 winners announced at Royal Lancaster London

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

The finals of the Toque d’Or competition took place today at The Lancaster Hotel in London.

The University College Birmingham team - Faiha Ahmed, Luke Haywood and Yasmine Selwood - and Drew Dawson, apprentice at The Ned took the title this year, culminating six months of arduous training and a series of challenges in kitchens (and food trucks) around the country.

Nestlé Professional has held the training and development initiative for the past 31 years, but the overriding narrative today was that the calibre in this year's competition was the highest it's ever been. 

The competition pitted 24 colleges against each other, and, for the second time,  48 apprentices were given the opportunity to take part in a separate category. As one of their prizes, the winners will be taken on a 5-day, all expenses paid trip to Europe. 

The aim of the competition is to give students the necessary presentation skills, nutritional knowledge and understanding of both menu design and food trends to become great chefs. This year’s theme was Sustainable Futures, exploring the issues of sustainable food, the importance of sustainability in the industry and sustainable careers.

The UCB team, who were introduced to one another by their tutors in order to take part in the competition, said it felt amazing to have won.

Beyond the glory of the victory, the  highlight to according Yasmine Selwood, was the people they met along the way: "We formed some amazing relationships that we'll treasure forever." 

Drew Dawson said it was "a bit overwhelming" to have won, but that it had been a "really nice journey." "To have won something like this is just superb. I couldn't ask for more." 

"The best thing I've taken from it has been all these great chefs that I've now got in my little black book that I'll be calling for the next ten years." 

"The Toque d'Or is getting out to more talent. Now that a lot more people know about it, of course the competition is going to get harder." 

Judge and celebrity chef James Tanner, who has been involved in the competition for the past 17 years, said: "Another fantastic year." 

"What I really noticed about 2019 was the quality of the students and the apprentices. The standard was unbelievably high. My marking sheet was massively close - I'm talking points in it."

"The guys are so up for it. They're so keen, they're talented and they're so eager. Let's face it, our industry needs it. Competitions like this bring talent, really nurture it and push it on. This is what I love about this competition." 

The theme transpired through the challenges given to the students: the college teams were tasked with creating a three-course vegetarian meal and wine pairing, while apprentices had to cook four of the same vegetarian dish for a panel of judges - including chef owner of The Elephant Simon Hulstone, celebrity TV chef James Tanner and Andrej Prokes, Nestlé Professional's own consultant chef. 

About the sustainable futures theme this year, Nestle Professional MD, Katya Simmonds, said: "Sustainability is having a significant impact on the UK foodservice industry. It’s not only important for employers to deliver on menu and operational sustainability but also training and skills sustainability to safeguard long-term careers for the next generation and protect the industry."

"Brands should definitely be using their influence to create positive change in the hospitality industry.[...]. By encouraging collaboration with other brands and bodies, together we can safeguard the future of the industry and make it a better place for everyone to work in."

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 13th June 2019

Toque d'Or 2019 winners announced at Royal Lancaster London