UCB wins top student award at Nestlé Professional Toque d'Or

June 2016

University College Birmingham has scooped the Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or, the nation’s top student culinary and restaurant service award. 

The team, Megan Lyke, Katie Lewis and Jack Gameson, triumphed in a record year for entries, seeing off competition from 156 teams representing 68 colleges. 

The UCB trio, who were unveiled as winners at a glittering awards lunch at The Dorchester in London, took part in a series of challenges based on the theme of nutrition, health and wellness. The tasks included creating and serving a three-course menu at a fine dining dinner for 48 VIP guests, covering a lunch and dinner service at Bill’s Restaurants across London and taking part in nutrition and dessert master classes. 

Megan, Katie and Jack pitted their skills against the crème de la crème of the next generation of hospitality stars and follow in a long line of illustrious Toque d’Or alumni including legendary chef and restaurateur Anton Mosimann, who presented the winners’ trophy. 

Chairman of the judges and chef James Tanner highlighted the importance of the competition in nurturing skills and inspiring the next wave of industry professionals.

Tanner said: “I have been completely bowled over by the passion, commitment and sheer talent that has shone through at every stage of the competition. It has been truly awe-inspiring.”

Both Megan and Katie, both aged 23, have just completed their Culinary Arts Management (CAM) degrees at UCB and 20-year-old Jack is due to start the third year of his CAM course in September.

Megan started at UCB on a VRQ Level 3 in Professional Cookery before progressing to a CAM degree. She said she particularly enjoyed the Toque d’Or’s health and wellness presentation. 

She said: “We had to present to the judges in a Dragons’ Den-like scenario to showcase what we would cook and serve for a dinner for 200 guests. As a team, we really enjoyed the task. It was so relevant and it is the responsibility of chefs to introduce healthy eating as the norm.” 

Jack, a former member of UCB’s Young Chefs Academy, said he loved the practical challenges of the Toque d’Or. “For me, the best part of the competition was the first task where we cooked the fine dining meal for 40 covers. It pulled all the colleges together and the night ran smoothly.”

In addition to the trophy, the team won £2,500 worth of catering equipment for the College of Food at UCB, a prize of £230 each and a place on a Toque d’Or study trip.

The team was mentored by Neil Rippington, Dean of the College of Food, chef lecturer and UCB chef competitions co-ordinator Mathew Shropshall and Amy Hollier, Assistant Dean of the College of Food.

Neil Rippington, Dean of UCB’s College of Food, said: “It is a fantastic achievement to win the Toque d’Or. It means our students are performing at the very highest level. It takes unflagging commitment to win a competition of this stature, which tests so many skills in the culinary arts and restaurant service.

“Katie, Megan and Jack have had to think on their feet and perform under high pressure to extremely high standards. We are extremely proud of them.

“To beat 155 other teams – that’s 465 students – to lift the prize is a real achievement and is one to cherish. Katie, Megan and Jack were a privilege to work with and I sincerely wish them all the best in the successful careers they have in front of them.

“We'll be seeing more of Jack as he completes the next two years of his Culinary Arts Management degree, whereas Katie and Megan, who are both graduating with 1st class honours, are about to commence exciting careers in food product development.”

At the gala awards lunch, Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or unveiled a new competition for the Toque d’Or Apprentice to showcase exceptional talent in the industry.  

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