and the 2018 Toque d’Or competition for Tertiary students

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For the 15th time in the 28-year history of the prestigious annual Nestlé Toque d’Or student culinary competition, the team from Ara Institute of Canterbury has fought off fierce competition from around the country to win the top award. [Ara was previously known as Christchurch Polytechnic].

Culinary students Shikylah Dearnley and Chahna Davis proved to be champs in the kitchen, picking up two gold medals, while Navneet Narayan dazzled diners at the event with his restaurant service skills to receive a silver medal. The trio battled it out against 21 other students and trainees from around the country to create and serve their award-winning menu which took out the top spot at the competition.

The Ara menu
Olive oil poached vine tomato salad, buffalo Mozzarello, pine nuts and garden leaves with an aged Balsamic vinaigrette
Seared Akaroa salmon cured in seaweed salt with hot smoked Akaroa salmon with horseradish pate, compressed cucumber, shaved fennel salad, tomato sauce vierge and karengo crostini
Braised beef cheek, kumāra and blue cheese custard, parsley crumb, broccolini textures, beef fat celeriac and red wine braising juices.
Glazed blond chocolate mousse.

The pressure was on throughout the three hours live kitchen cook off, as the teams fought against the clock and were scrutinised by a panel of top industry judges, which included UK culinary legend, Chef Anton Mosimann. The judges were led by high profile chef and leading culinary figure, Darren Wright of Chillingworth Rd, Christchurch. Competing teams were marked against WorldChefs International Judging Standards which included food preparation, presentation, taste and service.

The Ara team trainer, multi award winning chef Mark Sycamore, said the team had done an outstanding job, supported by restaurant trainer Adrian Hilhorst and pastry chef trainer Adele Hingston. Mark said “Bringing home the top award is a fantastic achievement not only for the students and the Institute but also for the Canterbury region. This win clearly demonstrates that the Canterbury region has a lot to offer in terms of hospitality and culinary creativity. It further cements Ara Institute of Canterbury’s position as being a centre of excellence when it comes to the training of hospitality students.”

Event organiser, and NZChefs Association immediate past-president, Graham Hawkes, said that the Nestlé Toque d’Or is the ultimate challenge for hospitality students. “They have to keep it together, tame nerves, support each other and work seamlessly as a team to achieve a top performance on competition day. Aside from the competitive element, the event also opens many doors for the students by placing them in front of hospitality professionals from around the country who are scouting for new talent.”

Shikylah Dearnley, said that she and her Ara team mates were elated to have won the competition, after training so hard for it. “We’ve spent so many days creating and perfecting the menu and our routines so that we were ready to go on competition day. At the end of day, it was all about getting the teamwork right, supporting each other, staying calm and having fun.”

Chahna Davis sent a message to; “I am one of the members of the winning team of Toque d'Or 2018. We want to say a massive thank you for making this competition possible as without sponsors like, there would be no opportunity to gain this experience. Thank you again.”

Dean Langrell-Read, Onions NZ representative on was a guest at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine’s table at the competition. He said “The technical skills on show by the students were of an incredibly high standard, especially when you consider the limited time they have and the resulting pressure they are under. The meal I had was fantastic and superbly wine matched, the waitress was very conversant in the meal preparation and subtleties of the various ingredients and flavours. Overall I was very impressed and if my meal was representative of those being served on the day then I would have to say the hospitality industry is in good hands”

Dean was a quest of Auckland Institute of Technology Table and dined with Pam Maurice from Scarborough Fare and Caroline Lassiter from the NZ School of Food and Wine.

Nestlé Toque d’Or is New Zealand’s longest running and most prestigious student cookery and restaurant service event. The annual event is a key fixture on the culinary calendar and is hotly contested by the country’s leading hospitality institutes. Aside from New Zealand, it is also held in 17 other countries around the world and has launched the careers of many world-famous chefs – previous competitors and or winners have been Anton Mosimann, Jamie Oliver and Pete Evans.

Sponsors of this year’s event were: Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb NZ,, Akaroa Salmon, House of Knives and Moffat NZ.

Pictured - The 2018 winners.  From left to right Chahna Victoria Davis, Navneet Narayan and Shikylah Dearnley.


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