CPIT students Hannah Grieve, Daniel Hoare and Gina Johns emerged victorious from the kitchen to take out the top spot at the prestigious 2013 Nestlé Toque d’Or competition.

Hannah and Daniel battled it out for over three hours against 20 other culinary students to create their winning three course menu during the live kitchen cook off. Under the ever watchful gaze of the judges, the team’s restaurant service competitor Gina served up the dishes to VIP guests attending the event.

The panel of 19 judges led by Chief Judge Darren Wright scrutinised the team’s every move throughout before tallying up the results and declaring CPIT the overall winner at a special Awards function held at the Villa Maria Estate in Auckland.

This is the 14th time that CPIT has taken out top honours and received the coveted ‘golden hat’ award.

Hannah said the team was elated to have won the competition after they had put so much time and effort into planning and preparing for the event. “Our team had to forge a strong partnership that worked like clockwork.  We were totally committed to winning and when we stepped onto the competition floor, months of hard work and practise came into play driving us onto success.”

The team praised their tutors who had mentored them along the way and helped them to their goal of winning the competition.

CPIT Manager of Culinary Programmes Ryan Marshall said he was thrilled that the team had won. “Achieving top ranking at Nestlé Toque d’Or is a huge milestone not only for the competing students but also for the training institute.  There were 10 other teams from all around the country all of whom were hungry for success.  To have helped our students to achieve victory at this prestigious event is immensely rewarding.”

Ryan said success in a live cook off is all about timing, maintaining composure when the pressure is on and working cohesively as a team. “If just one of those things is out, then a team is ultimately destined to fail. “Fortunately, on the day, all those key elements came together for us and the team managed to execute their menu flawlessly with time to spare.”

Ryan said the win would help to further cement CPIT’s position within the hospitality industry as being a top education destination for those people wanting to pursue a culinary or restaurant service career. Event organiser and President of the New Zealand Chefs Association (NZCA) Anita Sarginson, said Nestlé Toque d’Or is an exciting and fast-paced event to be involved in.

“It challenges competitors to achieve great things under the intense scrutiny of the judges and with tight time constraints in place,” Anita said. “Students must be in top form on the day because any mistakes they make will count against them.”

Teams were marked against World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) International Judging Standards  which included food preparation, presentation, taste and service. “Overall, the judges were impressed with the level of professionalism and creativity shown by the competing students.”

CPIT’s winning meal comprised a starter of Akaroa salmon followed by a main of prime New Zealand Beef.  The menu concluded with a lime mousse dessert which incorporated Nestlé Professional products.

A special innovation award sponsored by Moffat which aims to recognise recipe innovation was presented to AUT. Anita said the event provides a great opportunity for young up-and-coming students to showcase their abilities and demonstrate their skills in front of some of the country’s most highly-regarded culinary professionals.

This year was the 23rd anniversary of Nestlé Toque d’Or which is New Zealand’s longest running and most prestigious student cookery and food service event. It is also held in 17 other countries around the world and has launched the careers of world-famous chefs including Jamie Oliver.  The event is designed to simulate the pressure of a real working team environment.

Sponsors of this year’s event were: Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, vegetables.co.nz, Akaroa Salmon and The House of Knives.

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