Three Timaru Food and Hospitality students are working against the clock to perfect their menu and service for the annual Nestlé Toque D’Or competition.
Ara Cookery tutor Steve Le Corre helps the students to prepare for the national event, held in Auckland.
“This is the most prestigious hospitality training event in the country. It has been going for 26 years, and is known among the industry. Students gain so much from participating. Their speed picks up and it makes them much more capable in the kitchen,” Le Corre says.
Each team is made up of two culinary and one front-of-house student. They have to prepare and serve six covers of a three course meal. Ara is sending top students Denice Marayag, Edsant Obillo and Torryn Williams to the 2017 event.
From left to right: Torryn Williams, Edsant Obillo and Denice Marayag.
Ara Certificate Food and Beverage student Torryn Williams will be serving the meals to the judges. She goes from winning one hospitality competition straight to Toque D’Or.
“I just won Trainee Waiter of the Year at Southern Lights Salon Culinaire. I am nervous to compete at Toque D’Or, but I thought it would be a good experience.”
Patisserie student Denice Marayag and Cookery student Edsant Obillo will be the chefs in the competition. They also participated at Salon Culinaire and were both were medal winners.
“I love competitions. It is challenging and you can see how other people work and practice. It’s great to learn more. I feel very privileged to participate,” Marayag says.
“The classes are preparing us very well for the competition. We don’t just learn by the book, we get experience. We also share different ideas in my class and we have other nationalities. We all learn from each other.”
The students will create a three course menu, with a range of products from the sponsors, like Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and Akaroa Salmon. Adding to the pressure is the fact that students must finish their menus within a set timeframe.
“They get two and a half hours to cook a meal for six people, including entrée, main and dessert. There is a lot of pressure, as you’re starting from scratch and there is a lot to get done in that time,” Le Corre adds.
In the months leading up to the event, the Ara team will spend hours training to perfect their menus and rehearsing how the dishes will be presented to guests. By the time the competition arrives they will have done about 100 hours of training.
“We just keep training. We do the same things over and over. Everything needs to be perfect,” Le Corre says.
“I think most of the learning is going to be afterwards. It’s not only about cooking, but also how you can improve yourself. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to be passionate and motivated in what you’re doing. You will inspire others with that,” Marayag adds.
An elite group of chefs will judge the students, including multiple-award winning chefs.
“It’s a great experience for the students. They are the pick of the crop. We’ve had students getting job offers while they were at Toque D’Or, by the chefs that has seen and judged them.”
Nestlé Toque d’Or will be held on 27th July at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland.