We’re so proud to be part of the competition – it’s the highlight of our college’ year. There’s no doubt that Nestlé Professional Toque d’Or helps students get ‘industry-ready’, and there’s no better way for them to get their foot in the door when it comes to finding a job.
Paul Johnson, Chef Lecturer at Bradford College, ‘talks Toque’...
Before we entered Toque d’Or three years ago, I had absolutely no idea what impact the competition would have on the College. The first year we competed, we got through to the Finals – and you can’t imagine the positive impact this had on the students. Since then it’s been an incredible journey...
We now enter at least one team every year and I’m proud to say we’ve reached the Finals in 2014 and the Heats in 2015. The students are highly motivated and see the competition as the highlight of the year. It is also a fiercely contested battle as to which students are chosen to represent the College.
The competition process evokes emotion I wouldn’t have thought possible in a competition – student teams tell me it is ‘life-changing’ for them and I can understand this sentiment. It is a perfect competition for the underdog. It has a wonderful ‘community’ feel to it and both teachers and students are made to feel an important part of the ongoing journey by Nestlé Professional, which touches base with the students throughout, in many ways, such as social media. This makes them feel important and is something you don’t always see. I would say the competition is truly student driven and lecturer monitored.
My advice to other colleges taking part is to choose a diverse group to give everyone a chance to shine. Plus, communicate everything Toque d’Or sends across – your students need to be regularly updated to keep up the momentum and help them feel part of the whole experience. Now always included within the college induction, Toque d’Or is promoted at the outset by teachers, previous students and on Twitter.
Nestlé Professional has supported and nurtured young talent for an incredible 27 years, through its investment into Toque d’Or (which in English translates to ‘The Golden Hat’).
And, it doesn’t stop there, we have seen major players from across the entire hospitality industry join the initiative to lend their support and help. It brings everyone together in a way that is truly inspirational.
But the momentum doesn’t stop with the competition. I have recently introduced a mentoring scheme, where past students come and speak about their Toque’ journey and what it meant for them – and the impact on their subsequent careers. They give advice for those about to take part in the competition and hints and tips for success. After all, competitions can be quite an intimidating prospect and this scheme has helped to build confidence and reminds students of the skills they already have to draw on.
I’ve personally worked at The Ritz and The Ivy and think it’s vital to push our students beyond the educational environment they’re so used to. College environments can be restrictive and whether for student chefs – or front of house – Toque d’Or gives them a chance to break away and really experiment with their creative flair. Plus, they get an idea of what other colleges are doing and this works to build confidence and social skills that they’ll need in a job.
Whilst the content of Toque d’Or sits alongside the national curriculum, it ignites a passion to go above and beyond what they’re learning in college, and takes skills to a whole new level. In fact, it equips them with a wide range of skills that you don’t get with other competitions. For example, in recent Finals, modules have been set around sustainability / waste management and nutrition, health and wellness – all elements which are vital to today’s operators and deemed important by the ultimate customer – our consumers!
The competition is fully entwined in the industry and the name ‘Toque d’Or’ is well known by everyone – setting a standard and level of professionalism that is respected across the hospitality sector, which is why we now enter every year. There is no doubt that employers’ value the Toque d’Or brand on a CV. And just look at what past Toque’ entrants have gone to achieve, for example Jamie Oliver and Anton Mosimann – to name but a few.
All our students who’ve taken part in the competition have gone on to work at Rosette establishments. For us – this annual initiative is highly valued, providing students with opportunity, challenging them to think on their feet, deliver engagement with each other and their potential customers, whilst instilling a deep understanding of what it truly means to operate as a team. It pushes them right to their edge of their limits.