Connor Stowell, former student at Bradford College and runner-up of Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or 2014, gives us an insight into his Toque journey, revealing how it has opened doors in his career and ignited an all-consuming passion to work his way right to the top of the industry.
Being part of Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or has been an incredible journey for me, and one that I hope is still very much in its evolution...
For me, Toque was a life-changer. First off, it taught me the value of teamwork. You can’t succeed on your own in this industry. It really is a team game and Toque reinforces this every step of the way – the challenges are about delivering teamwork and thinking bigger than any one person. My team at Bradford were amazing, I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the competition without them.
Secondly, it gave me ‘real life’ experience of working in a professional kitchen. The challenges set throughout the competition throw you in at the deep-end, and open your eyes to real issues and pressures, all of which you can’t learn sitting in the classroom.
Essentially, Toque made me realise what I wanted to do. I want to be cooking. It’s motivated me to do well in the Industry and to work my way up. It’s given me confidence in myself, and I’m now even more determined to succeed and get better.
Toque has definitely opened doors for me and has given me the ambition to make it to the top. I’m currently Chef de Partie at Best Western Cedar Court Hotel in Yorkshire, a job I’m really proud of, and not something I ever imagined I would be doing before taking part in the competition.
And I’m not planning to stop there! I want to keep working my way up. Eventually, I would like be a Head Chef and have my own restaurant.
For me, the best thing about taking part in Toque d’Or was learning new things and meeting new people. From working in a Michelin-star kitchen to feeling the heat at the Finals, it was an incredible experience and I enjoyed every minute of it.
It’s now been two years since the competition and I’m privileged to have taken part and recognise the pivotal role it has played, not only in my career but also in my personal development.
To the students out there who are just starting their Toque journey, my advice i enjoy EVERY moment – it’s not the kind of opportunity that comes round every day, so take in everything you can and go for it.