Rosie Maguire has competed in the Toque d’Or College Competition twice, making it to the Grand Finals in both 2016 and 2017. We caught up with her to find out how the competition has made an impact on her plans for the future.
1. What is your relationship with Toque d’Or?
Toque d’Or is very special to me because it was the very first competition that was mentioned to me as a student in my first year, and consequently the first one that I entered. That really did make a difference as it was the first thing that made me realise that putting yourself 'out there' is not so scary and actually very exciting!
2. How did you prepare for taking part in the competition a second time around?
To begin with I was a little intimidated - I felt like this time around I had higher expectations of myself to get far in the competition… but when it got to the National Heats I realised that what I really wanted from the competition was to get out of it all the skills, knowledge and good memories that I did last year, and as soon as I got into the kitchen I just wanted to enjoy it and do myself proud.
3. Having competed twice, what are your thoughts on the challenges that are set year on year?
I think the challenges in both years have been absolutely fantastic, but do not be fooled and think that competing twice gave me any sort of advantage - the challenges for the 2017 Grand Finals have been completely different! I've really enjoyed every task I've taken part in and the best thing is that each one has given me something different to take into industry after I finish.
4. Which of the Toque d’Or judges/mentors have inspired you and why?
Someone that really inspired and motivated me throughout was Darren Chapman, who was a fantastic mentor for me in both years of the competition. From helping me to develop practical and time management skills, to encouraging myself and the other students to 'think outside of the box', to just being a friend in the competition and someone to have a laugh with. Darren inspired me even further to really put myself out there and go for it.
5. You competed in the 2016 finals part of the University of Derby team then again in 2017 as a selected member of the Wild Card. How did these experiences compare?
Both of these experiences have been incredible, but also very different too; competing in the team last year was great because we all knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This year, when we got to the Grand Finals I was meeting my team mates for the first time and it was a little terrifying to tell the truth because I had absolutely no idea what was in store. But adapting to the challenges ourselves and going through being wildcard team members together was an experience that really brought us together, and I honestly think I've made some friends for life! It's great to compete in a university/college team but being in the first ever Wild Card team was absolutely brilliant and I don't think anybody should say no to that opportunity because they are afraid of the uncertainty that comes with it.
6. What was it like working with the apprentice finalists during the Fine Dining Challenge at Le Cordon Bleu?
Working with the apprentices was really cool because we got to network with individuals who have taken a different route to us and exchange knowledge and experience with one another. This was especially helped as we were all in one big team for that challenge. Also, it was great to talk to people who were in their last day of the competition because they were a lot more relaxed and familiar than the rest of us who were awkward and nervous to begin with!
7. What words best describe your Toque d’Or experience?
Challenging, inspiring, diverse and memorable!
8. In what ways has the competition made you think differently / reinforced views you had about your future career in hospitality?
I think certainly it has made me think a lot about how open the doors are. When you go to train to be chef you don't necessarily realise that there are so many different paths that you can go down, and participating in this competition really teaches you that in fact, there are, because you are exposed to those pathways in all the different challenges that you participate in.
9. How is Toque d’Or different to your everyday learning at college/in the classroom?
When you are learning in the classroom, you are thinking and talking about all the different things that go on in a commercial Kitchen, and how to prepare for them, etc. But it is not until you are thrown into that situation that you actually learn how to deal with it, and the relevance of all the teaching becomes fully realised. This is what the competition does - it throws you in at the deep end! It's only then that you can put all that theory into practice.
10. What advice would you give to future participants of Toque d’Or?
Don't be scared. I can’t tell you how close I was to not entering because I thought I would get shot down, or that I wasn't experienced enough. Yes this competition tests and challenges you. Yes, it’s tough. But every experience that I've had is full of positivity, learning and I've come away from it feeling so much more confident than that scared little girl that almost talked herself out of it. I can't believe I nearly missed out on all of this! Don't be scared, and don't ever think that you can't do it because I assure you, you can!