Students at Warrington Collegiate in running for Nestle Toque d'Or food award

PUBLISHED: 08:35 10 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:40 20 February 2013

Students at Warrington Collegiate in running for Nestle Toque d'Or food award

Students at Warrington Collegiate in running for Nestle Toque d'Or food award

Students at Warrington Collegiate are hoping to serve up culinary success in a prestigious national competition

Given that they are taking part in the competition that helped launch the careers of Jamie Oliver and James Martin, you might expect the students at Warrington Collegiate to be feeling the pressure. But they are proving they can stand the heat and they are staying in the kitchen.
The six strong-team - made up of four chefs and two front of house - have already battled their way through gruelling heats against 150 colleges and they cooked up a storm in the demanding semi-finals of the Nestle Toque dOr competition. They also sizzled against four other colleges in the Grand Final where they dished up for 100 people at the BBC Good Food Show at Birmingham NEC in June
Not a bad effort considering some of them have only been cooking for a year.
But now they face the worse bit - the wait. Any day now they will be summoned to Londons Dorchester Hotel where the winners will be announced.
The winning team would gain places on the Nestl Toque dOr Study Trip, a once in a lifetime visit to one of the worlds greatest culinary competitions, the Bocuse dOr. The college would also receive 4,000 of equipment for its kitchens.
Dan Turner, course lecturer, said: It has been challenging. We are up against the largest catering college in the UK but Im confident we are going to do it.
These will be the 20 best new chefs in the country battling it out to win and I know our guys can do it. They are excellent at what they do. Its incredible to think how far we have come.
The Nestle Toque dOr is recognised as one of the most challenging competitions in the catering industry. A team from Warrington Collegiate have entered the competition since 2006 with ever more success and last year reached the semi finals.
This years group, who range from 18 to 39-years-old, were set the challenge of creating and running their own restaurant including coming up with a business plan, their own menu and sourcing everything they needed to run it - down to knives and forks.
They chose a Scottish restaurant, The Highlands, and served a menu filled with showcase produce from north of the border including Orkney crab, Scottish beef and home made haggis. They also had to devise a dessert using a Nestle product; the Warrington team chose a Lion Bar cheesecake.
Throughout the competition the students, who were hand picked from their courses, had the support of their lecturers as well as from Michelin starred chef Will Holland, from the world renowned La Becasse restaurant in Ludlow. Two students, Adam Latham and Charlotte Duncan, got to work in the kitchen of the chefs restaurant and the group visited The Dorchester Hotel as well as Nestles headquarters.
For 23-year-old chef Adam, who works as a chef de partie at a handful of local restaurants, catering has been quite a turnaround.
He said: Ive studied a few different things. I didnt know what I wanted to do. Id done cooking and art at school and was thinking of doing art again. It was suggested that the catering course here might be good for me and Ive not looked back.
Weve had so much fun coming up with the recipes and learning from people like Will Holland. Being able to cook in his kitchen was a real high point for me. Weve all worked really hard so now I really hope we go all the way.
Taking up the catering course at Warrington Collegiate has been a change of direction for 39-year-old Kate Knowles. Two years ago she gave up her London lifestyle and job directing photo shoots for Comic Relief to move to Knutsford to be nearer to her mum and sister. Winning the Toque dOr competition would give her the chance to pursue a lifelong dream.
She said: Ive always wanted to do cooking. I love food and to do it as a job would be incredible.
Being in the competition has been fantastic. I didnt expect it to be as good as it has been. We all work really well together and it has been really exciting.
Even without the Toque DOr the pupils are doing well. Buckleys restaurant, based at the Collegiate, gets the sort of rave reviews most top chefs would kill for. Many comments heap praise on the team and they dont just come from food critics but the people who really matter - paying customers. Whats more, a good dinner from the fine dining menu costs less than 15 per head.
The enthusiasm of the students reflects the trend of more and more young people considering careers in catering. It is hardly surprising when the likes of Nigella, Ainsley and Jamie regularly grace our television screens. The pupils at Warrington Collegiate have learned there is more toil than glamour in this demanding world. But are they feeling the pressure? Not likely.
Mother-of-one Denise Cargill, who is on the hospitality, catering and event management course, looked after front of house with Ryan Gorman, while juggling family life, throughout the competition.
She said: It has been hard work but we have all just got on with it and done the best we can. We were nervous presenting our business plan but theres not time for that now.
We have done what we can and hopefully it will be good enough to win. If we win we will certainly be celebrating.
If you want to sample the Buckleys Restaurant menu - past dishes have included mussel and queenie scallop chowder and pot roasted rump of lamb with cabbage, mushroom and bean fricassee - call 01925 494378.

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