Rebecca and Georgia off to Nestlé Professional Toque d'Or grand finals
By Melanie HallShare post:
Read time: approx 7 mins
A talented undergraduate chef and a formidable former front of house student from University College Birmingham are on their way to the grand finals of this year's Nestlé Professional Toque d'Or.
Rebecca Bourne and Georgia Wheatley fought off competition from over 100 other semi-finalists, made up of hospitality students, apprentices and young professionals from across the UK, to win a spot in the final showdown in the prestigious competition.
From more than 950 initial entrants, just 12 are now through to the final, which takes place in the summer and will be held virtually for the second year running amid the ongoing restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Rebecca, a Hospitality Business Management BA (Hons) student at the University’s Birmingham College of Food, and Georgia, who studied Professional Food and Beverage Service and is now head waitress at Birmingham’s The Ivy, both had different back and front of house challenges to meet to make the final.
Rebecca, who assisted Team GB at the world-class Bocuse d’Or competition in 2018 and has been chosen as vice-captain of the Junior National Team England for the Culinary World Cup in 2022, had to create her own vegetarian sauce to accompany a gnocchi dish created by Louisa Ellis – winner of the BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals Festive Knockout last year.
She also needed to demonstrate how her creation was sustainable, nutritional and vegetarian.
Georgia, who won a gold medal at Hotelympia while at college and then made the semi-finals of UK Young Chef Young Waiter of the Year 2019, judged by top chefs including Jason Atherton and Tom Kerridge, had to create a non-alcoholic mixed drink based on a high quality Jasmine Green Tea.
"What an amazing achievement to make the finals. Rebecca and Georgia are a credit to both the University and their families. Both completed the first and second stages with focus, dedication and real determination to win, and fingers crossed they showcase their talents now in the final and give 100%. But we are already very proud of what they have done.”
In this task, she had to give careful consideration to the nutritional content of her drinks and keep sugar levels to a minimum.
Both had to develop a video and other digital content to bring their dishes and drinks to life before taking part in a virtual cooking and drinks challenge. Their creations were then packaged and distributed for judging by Louisa in the chef category and educator and drinks expert Alison Taffs for front of house.
Rebecca started her journey with an NVQ Level 2 and 3 at University College Birmingham, after which she was selected to take part in an Erasmus placement at Huset Blom restaurant in Denmark.
She then completed a Professional Cookery foundation degree at the University, complete with a placement at a boutique hotel in Spain, Hotel la Fonda, and bitten by the learning bug, is now studying for her hospitality business management degree.
On making the Toque d’Or finals, she said: “I chose to do this because my long-term ambition is to own a restaurant, and I want to have all the skills to be successful in this venture. It is an incredible opportunity to compete nationally and represent my university in my first professional competition, and I am also extremely passionate about female progression within hospitality.
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I am being given and the support received from the University, all my lecturers, family and friends, and my mentors for the Toque d’Or competition, Chef Shropshall and Christine Alberto.”
Georgia started her food and beverage course after attending University College Birmingham’s Young Waiter’s Academy for 14-16 year olds, which, after struggling to find her way at school, changed her life. During her course, she worked at Michelin-starred Simpsons and was able to enter award after award, giving her the skills and confidence to go on to win a plum role at The Ivy.
On making the Toque d’Or finals, she said: “I honestly can’t believe I am a finalist in this year’s competition. It is such a brilliant opportunity and I cannot wait to take on the final challenge.
“Without the support of Christine Alberto and Chef Shropshall, and all the training from University College Birmingham, I don’t think this would have been possible and I am very grateful for this, especially the mentoring from Christine, who has guided me through this exciting journey.”
Exciting challenges coming up
The Toque d’Or finals will take place in June, where, over three days, finalists will be put through their paces with a host of exciting challenges and opportunities to develop a variety of skills.
Hopes are high that Rebecca and Georgia can continue the trend of success for University College Birmingham students, with teams from the University having carried off the title five times since 2010, most recently at the 2019 competition.
Chef lecturer Mathew Shropshall said: “What an amazing achievement to make the finals. Rebecca and Georgia are a credit to both the University and their families.
“This is the fifth time I’ve mentored students for this competition and I’m hoping these brilliant students will enjoy the experience and learn from the amazing challenges they get set along the way.
“Both completed the first and second stages with focus, dedication and real determination to win, and fingers crossed they showcase their talents now in the final and give 100%. But we are already very proud of what they have done.”
Lecturer Christine Alberto said: “I am so proud of Georgia and Rebecca achieving the final in the Toque d'Or, such a prestigious competition to be part of.
“I have mentored numerous competitions in the past, including the small Bocuse in Paris and I must admit, Georgia amazed me with her creativity, dedication and professionalism. She has been a delight to mentor and her passion has shone through all along the way.
“I am looking forward to witness more achievement from both Georgia and Rebecca in the final. I am confident they will do their best and whatever happens, being a part of this great venture has made us proud. Good luck to both of them.”
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.
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