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Wintec’s top hospitality students line up for live kitchen battle

Toque Image 1

From left, Wintec student chefs Grace Whittaker and Leslie Kingi plate up during a training session.

Wintec’s top hospitality students will go head to head with New Zealand’s emerging culinary and restaurant service superstars at the annual Nestlé Toque d’Or competition later this month.

The team of four second-year Culinary Arts students will be among 30 competitors from 10 of the country’s leading training institutes battling it out at the Auckland Showgrounds on Thursday 27 July.

Wintec student chefs Leslie Kingi and Grace Whittaker are first time competitors, while this will be the third year competing for Front of House entrant Melissa Petrin, who was last year named Waikato Commis Chef of the Year. Remy Flutey is the team’s reserve and will cover any of her three team mates if required.  

Wintec hospitality tutor and head coach for the Toque team, Shannon Katipa said the students were selected from an original group of 18 who submitted expressions of interest. From there, a shortlisted group of six were required to take part in a mystery box style cooking challenge where the final team was decided.

He said he and his two assistant coaches, fellow tutors Carl Houben and Marco Guimaraes, were confident the team was well balanced and working hard to prepare for the grueling competition.

Nestlé Toque d’Or, which has been running for over 26 years, is considered by those in the industry to be the premier student culinary and front of house competition in New Zealand with the competition taking place in a simulated live kitchen environment.

NZ Chefs National President and organiser of the event, Graham Hawkes, said the goal for the students is to create and deliver an award-winning menu to special guests attending the event on competition day.

“Tensions are high and the pressure is on throughout to get it right and avoid any costly mistakes that could lead to lost points. The menus the students create and deliver to guests on the day must be as close to perfect as possible, if they want to be named the winning team.”

Further adding to the pressure is the fact that menus and service must be completed within a set timeframe and under the watchful eye of a panel of top local and industry judges as well as event guests.

All of the teams are given a list of ingredients in advance that they can use to create menus that they think will impress the judges.

“Aside from the highly competitive aspect, the event also opens doors to new career opportunities with influential culinary professionals scouting the event for fresh talent,” said Graham.

The winning team will be announced at an awards dinner at the Heritage Hotel following the competition.