August 2019

Toque d'Or title winners visit three Michelin-starred restaurant

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University College Birmingham's triumphant Toque d'Or team had the chance to dine at the chef’s table at one of the world's few three Michelin-starred restaurants during a prize trip to Spain.

Luke Hayward, Yasmine Selwood and Faiha Ahmed clinched the 2019 Nestlé Professional Toque d'Or title following four days of competition at the Grand Finals in May.

And as part of their prize, the winners were given the opportunity to travel to Spain at the end of July for a gastronomic tour of the Basque Country.

Starting in Bilbao, the students first enjoyed lunch at La Ribera and visited the city's Guggenheim Museum before spending the evening at the museum's Michelin-starred Nerua restaurant.

They then had the opportunity to visit Crusoe Treasure Winery before travelling to San Sebastián where they enjoyed a chef’s table experience at the three Michelin-starred Arzak restaurant.

After a visit to Petritegi Cider House the next morning, the students enjoyed a foodie walking tour through San Sebastián’s Old Town before taking the funicular railway to the summit of Mount Igueldo, finishing their trip with lunch surrounded by stunning panoramic views of La Concha Bay below.

"The trip was an amazing experience," said team member Yasmine, who is progressing from a Level 3 to a foundation degree in Professional Cookery at UCB this summer. "We got to explore two different cities both with great food scenes."

Yasmine said dining at the chef’s table at Arzak was a particular highlight. "We talked about how they implement sustainability into the menu and try to have a zero waste policy," she said. "This was great because not only was it the theme of the competition, but it is a huge focus of the industry at the moment.

"The food was amazing, the balance of flavours and the consistency in quality of the plates. What stood out to me is how much the chefs at work seemed to care, the speed and precision they worked with, as well as the consistency of the front of house staff and how much of a difference that can make to your overall meal experience at that level.

"Teamwork was at the forefront of every place we visited. It really highlighted how important it is for front of house and back of house to have impeccable communication and organisation."

The annual Toque d’Or competition sees teams judged on both their cooking and service skills, with UCB’s team crowned 2019 winners in a special awards ceremony at London's Royal Lancaster hotel in June.

It's the fifth time since 2010 that students from the College of Food have taken the Toque d’Or title, and the third time in the last four years.

UCB offers students a range of opportunities to challenge themselves at industry competitions during their studies, with this year already seeing a string of successes for the University's budding food stars.

Toque d'Or winner Luke picked up a bronze award at the Young Chef Olympiad in India back in February, while June saw UCB students clinch honours at the Alliance of Bakery Students and Trainees (ABST) competition as well as the UK Young Seafood Chef of the Year contest.

Find out more about our food courses and other industry opportunities available through UCB's College of Food here.

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