Nestlé Toque d'Or: Attracting and Nurturing Tomorrow's Talent

Date : 10 November 2011

NestleBusiness Sector

Food Manufacturing

Type of engagement

Nestlé employs almost 7,000 people across 23 sites in the UK and Ireland. It is a subsidiary of Nestlé SA, the world’s foremost nutrition, health and wellness company. Nestlé Professional is the dedicated foodservice division.

Nestlé Professional is committed to supporting the education of students entering the hospitality industry and providing employers with young professionals who have the highest level of skills. The Nestlé Toque d’Or gives students the opportunity to shine in front of future employers, as the next generation of talent which will be a real asset to their business and the industry.

The British Hospitality Association has also identified the hospitality industry’s potential for creating jobs, whilst at the same time raising concerns over skills: ‘Recruitment and skills have long been a challenge to the industry, with chef and food service shortages a constant concern for many years’.

2011 winners: College of Food, University College BirminghamFor over 23 years Nestlé has demonstrated support to the future of the hospitality industry by providing opportunities for many students and colleges nationwide to take part in the Nestlé Toque d’Or, the UK’s premier student catering competition.

What makes Toque d’Or so unique as a competition is that it is more than simply about creating good food. Along the way, teams of chefs and front of house students are expected to bridge the gap between the theory of the classroom and hands on experience. This is achieved by demonstrating the practical and commercial skills needed to run a working business whilst taking into account factors such as nutrition, team working and sustainability. As such it presents a lifetime of experience in one competition and an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of some of the finest talent in the profession.

Purpose of engagement and activities

In its early days, focus was on the individual competing. In the mid 90’s, this changed to be more of a team event of six students - consisting of four from the kitchen and two front of house staff – reflecting the recognition that for a restaurant to be successful, a great chef needs a brigade that exudes excellence in team working skills in order not only to direct the team, but also to work effectively with front of house colleagues.

In the 2010/2011 competition, the ultimate challenge that faced the teams was to provide and deliver a complete dining experience, including the restaurant concept itself, to 100 paying guests and a panel of professional judges – both on time and to perfection - at a national food show.

The competition is open to all colleges to enter. However, through a 3 stage selection process the teams are required to demonstrate an increasingly in depth knowledge and application of the many aspects of the hospitality industry that makes it so demanding to perform under pressure, whilst maintaining the highest standards.

The initial point of entry is a paper based submission which requires each team to submit a presentation covering a number of key criteria including a:

  • detailed description of the restaurant concept, justifying the selected approach with regard to nutrition, sustainability and provenance;
  • three course menu for a healthy lunch with the main course, not exceeding 600 calories in total;
  • 300 word demonstration of the team’s understanding and delivery of a sustainability policy.

12 entries are then selected by a distinguished and highly experienced Toque d’Or panel of industry recognised judges to progress to the regional heats. Those selected have a maximum of 3 weeks to perfect their restaurant concept and menu for presentation to the judges in person.

In addition to cooking and serving 22 covers in a one hour lunch sitting the teams are required to make a presentation to the judges which expands upon:

  • development of the concept
  • menu formulation
  • how the menu is nutritious and balanced
  • sustainability policy
  • food costings
  • the management and staffing of the restaurant

Following the regional heats 5 teams are selected to enter the Grand Final held at a national food show. This is the ultimate test of each team’s abilities in that they must be able to provide and deliver a complete dining experience to 100 paying guests and a panel of professional judges – both on time and to perfection.

Nestlé Professional recognises the step change in performance required to meet this challenge. To equip the teams they are invited to a bespoke familiarisation event some 3 months before the final which delivers:

  • the opportunity to work with a dedicated mentor, courtesy of the Restaurant Association, who will provide insight, knowledge and support to each team;
  • up close and personal access to master classes provided by a Nestlé Professional Development Chef
  • the chance to study for the unique City and Guilds accredited Nestlé Toque d’Or Nutrition, Health and Wellness qualification which gives significant and additional value to each contestant’s CV;

Additionally this year’s five finalists were literally moved outside of their comfort zone by testing their presentation, team working and cookery skills through preparing an appetising and nutritious meal for the army in less than three hours in a field kitchen in the great outdoors for some distinguished guests.

From exacting preparation to sitting the unique Nestlé Toque d’Or City and Guilds Nutrition qualification, from cooking for the army to planning and delivering a fine dining experience it’s no wonder that the Nestlé Toque d’Or is seen as offering an unparalleled journey for participating students and a lifetimes experience in one competition.

Results and benefits

For many of the UK’s leading chefs, competing in the Nestlé Toque d’Or is seen as one of the most influential and inspirational experiences a young professional can have in their careers and on their CV.

As James Tanner, TV celebrity chef and Chairman of Judges comments:
"I think it is incredibly easy to forget how young the individuals competing are and the phenomenal journey they have been on. It is a real test of skill, imagination, passion and commitment and what they manage to achieve is often nothing short of exceptional. I am privileged to be part of the competition and recognise the pivotal role it plays in developing the future of hospitality talent."

Nestlé Professional UK & Ireland, Managing Director Neil Stephens is equally clear about the benefits of the competition:
"It is our responsibility as an industry to find ways to encourage and nurture tomorrow’s talent and the Nestlé Toque d’Or is a great example of this. We look forward to celebrating the next generation of foodservice professionals."

Find out more

To find out more about Nestlé Toque d’Or visit