Being a part of Toque d'Or is a huge boost to any aspiring hospitality professional’s career. We caught up with some of last years’ winners to hear what the Toque d'Or experience has meant to them and what they have been up to since.
Drew Dawson was an apprentice at 5 Star Hotel and members’ club The Ned when he entered Toque d'Or, but taking part had such a huge impact on him that he left his role to further explore his love for food.
“After winning the competition, I spent two months travelling Italy working in different kitchens, learning about traditional Italian cooking techniques - making pasta, salamis and charcuterie - and generally exploring European cuisine.”
On returning to London, Drew staged with Tom Angelsea at his East London restaurant The Laughing Heart, before taking the role of chef de partie on the sauce section at Allegra in Stratford, which is ex-Chiltern firehouse head chef Patrick Powell’s first solo venture.
Drew plans to see the year out at the restaurant and then in January will move on again, this time to Melbourne where he will continue working as a chef.
“Toque d'Or has given me self-confidence and pushed me into learning more about my trade. It opens doors and equally opens your mind in to how far you can take a career in hospitality. When I left my job to become an apprentice at the Ned, I would never have imagined that I would be cooking at the level I am now.”
Yasmine Selwood, 32, has quite a different experience, but also credits Toque d'Or with giving her the push she needed to take her studies and career onto the next level.
She was in her first year of an FDA professional Cookery Course at University College Birmingham when her course tutor suggested she enter Toque d'Or.
“I had been a stay at home mum for 12 years, so making the decision to go back into education was huge. Taking part in Toque’ d'Or was an even bigger change – but a great one! The competition was tough, but genuinely an amazing experience which I loved from start to finish.”
For the finals, Yasmine and her team were set a different challenge every day for a week, not knowing what each would be until the morning of the task. The one that she found the most challenging was cooking an asparagus pasta dish in an outdoor kitchen on a farm in the pouring rain and wind, but it is also the one that taught her the most.
“It was freezing cold and we could barely get the water to boil for the pasta, but we pulled it off,” said Yasmine. “The fact we managed to create this fantastic dish in such stressful circumstances was so rewarding and made me realise what I was capable of.”
Yasmine says Toque d'Or has given her a huge confidence boost and this pushed her to go for a position at one of Birmingham’s top restaurants.
“Winning has definitely opened some doors for me,” she said. “Having it on my CV shows not only that I am a capable chef, but that I work well as part of a team and can handle pressure."
“Since winning the competition, I decided to go for a position at Adams Restaurant and I am now working there three days a week as a commis chef. I am not sure I would have gone for it if it hadn’t been for Toque d’Or.”
Register for Toque d'Or 2020 now!