March 2021

Quartet braced for virtual battle in semi-finals of prestigious Toque d’Or contest

By Darren Campbell

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Four budding food and hospitality stars from University College Birmingham are set to battle for a place in the final of this year's Nestlé Professional Toque d'Or.

Contested every year by trainee chefs and hospitality students up and down the country, the prestigious competition is being held in a virtual format for the second year running amid the ongoing restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

But even the unique challenges of lockdown haven't held back the quartet looking to follow in the footsteps of a succession of University College Birmingham students to have triumphed at the competition in recent years.

Having made the cut from an initial entry pool of more than 950 entrants, Professional Chef FdA students Alahgi Jadama and Heather Goldie will be joined by Hospitality Business Management BA (Hons) student Rebecca Bourne as well as former student and front-of-house professional Georgia Wheatley in the semi-final stage.

The chefs will be tasked with creating their own vegetarian sauce to accompany a gnocchi dish created by Louisa Ellis – winner of the BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals Festive Knockout last year – while they will also need to demonstrate how their creation is sustainable, nutritional and vegetarian.

"Our students are performing at the very highest level, even with the challenges faced over the past year"

Richard Taylor Year manager, Professional Chef FdA

Meanwhile the front-of-house contestants will have to create a non-alcoholic mixed drink based on a high quality Jasmine Green Tea, all while giving careful consideration to the nutritional content of their drinks and keeping sugar levels to a minimum.

In both cases, the competitors will have to develop a video and other digital content to help bring their dishes and drinks to life before taking part in a virtual cooking and drinks challenge on 15 April.

Their creations will then be packaged and distributed for judging before the finalists are announced at the end of April ahead of the climax of the competition later in the summer.

Mathew Shropshall, University College Birmingham chef lecturer and back of house Nestlé team mentor, said it was an honour to put the students forward for this year's contest.

"Over the years we've seen University College Birmingham students develop and learn from this wonderful catering and hospitality competition," he said. "Following a difficult 12 months, it's a pleasure to mentor and train them in their research for success.

"They all remain a credit to the University and their families. We've completed the first part, now the semi-finals await them!"

Professional Chef FdA year manager Richard Taylor said: "It is a fantastic achievement to get into the semi-finals of the Toque d'Or. It means our students are performing at the very highest level, even with the challenges faced over the past year.

"It takes unflagging commitment and professionalism to enter a competition which showcases their all-round skills to the world. We wish them every success in this competition and hope the learning experience will be rewarding."

Food and Beverage lecturer Christine Alberto said: "I am very honoured to be part of this prestigious competition and be able to mentor my former Level 3 Food and Beverage service student Georgia Wheatley.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase skills and determination to shine after a very difficult year."

Hopes will be high that the quartet can continue the trend of success for University College Birmingham students at the Toque d'Or, with teams from the University having carried off the title five times since 2010, most recently at the 2019 competition.

University College Birmingham provides a wealth of opportunities for students on our renowned food and hospitality courses to gain experience and put their skills to the test in industry competitions.

Find out more about the range of courses available within our Birmingham College of Food and our Department of Hospitality and Tourism.

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