Competing in the Grand Finals:
Welcomed to London by the Toque d’Or Team on Monday 20 March, our five apprentices settled into their hotel ready for three days of challenges ahead! After a 5am wakeup call on Tuesday they were packed into taxis weary eyed, all trying to guess what could be in store. Driven across London they were taken to Billingsgate Fish Market. The group were met by CJ Jackson, the CEO and Principal of Billingsgate Seafood School before being taken for a tour of the market in full swing. Learning about the huge variety of seafood available along with the history of Billingsgate the apprentices were given insight by experts in the field. They were then taken to Billingsgate Fish School for a filleting masterclass and a quick species ID quiz with resident Blockman, Ronnie. Their first challenge was then set! Each apprentice was given a fish dish; Billingsgate Merchants Fish Stew with Rouille, Witch with Gremolata and Gruyere with Roast Vegetables or Roast Hake with Caponata with Dressed Tagliatelle and Seaweed to produce two covers of within an hour.
The second day gave the finalists a deserved lie in and mid-morning they were taken to Aveqia, London only to be greeted by a familiar face in the kitchen; Chair of Judges Chef Simon Hulstone. Today’s challenge was all about cooking for competition! With a wealth of competition experience under his belt, who better to deliver this masterclass than Chef Hulstone? The apprentices were shown a main and dessert that have previously been used for competition; Roasted Fillet of Brixham Hake, Squid and Cauliflower 'risotto' and Buttered Monks Beard and Passion Fruit Crème with Poached Rhubarb and Sweet Cicely. Each apprentice then had to replicate both dishes in 1 hour 30 minutes and present to Chef Hulstone and his team of judges Paul Mannering, Academy Principal at HIT Training and Mick Burke, ex-Chef Lecturer at Sheffield City College.
With just one day of competition left, Toque d’Or took the apprentices to The Perkin Reveller to enjoy a relaxed dinner alongside the college finalist teams who had arrived in London earlier that afternoon. Everyone was told to pack chef whites and front of house uniforms ready for the following day, sparking whispered discussions of what could be coming their way. Little did they know they would be spending a lot of time together over the next 24 hours