Nestlé Professional announced the final winners of the 35th-anniversary edition of Toque d’Or

After battling it out during an exciting but tough Grand Finals Week on 5-9th June, Joshua Kerr from City of Glasgow College and Amber Clay from University College Birmingham have been named the champions of this year’s competition.

The Grand Finals consisted of four days of sustainability-inspired challenges, which gave the 12 finalists plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their new skills. Each day offered a new test, with participants crafting sustainably sourced menus, foraging for food, and learning about sustainable farming and production.

Throughout the week, competitors enjoyed industry-leading mentorship and advice from the judging panel as well as a number of guest judges and partners, led by award-winning chef and restauranteur, Tommy Banks; MasterChef Festive Knockout winner, Louisa Ellis; educator, sommelier and wine expert, Raul Diaz; and 2021 FOH Toque d’Or winner, Sophie Taylor.

The Grand Finals week included a trip to Brough Castle – part of First Milk, a farmer-owned dairy cooperative. Here, participants saw first-hand how First Milk is working with Nestlé to build a long-term regenerative approach to agriculture that supports both farmers and the environment.

The confectionery challenge at the Nestlé Product Technology Centre (PTC) in York was a culinary adventure and one of the key highlights from the week, which included a very special visit to the KitKat® factory, where competitors experienced the production process. This was followed by a chocolate masterclass from Nestlé’s Senior Confectioner, John Costello, with the students challenged to create delicious doughnuts and coffee shop style drinks in partnership with Richs and Sodexo. The milk from Brough Castle farm was used during the challenge, continuing the sustainable sourcing of ingredients.

During a day at Ellers Farm Distillery, finalists experienced the sustainable processes used to make Dutch Barn Orchard Vodka. Next, they created delicious Brazilian-inspired vodka cocktails at a masterclass using MONIN’s exotic Jabuticaba fruit mix, before going head-to-head, showcasing their new skills in a cocktail competition. Commenting on the challenge, judge Raul Diaz said: “All of the participants showed incredible skill and talent. It was wonderful to see their passion for new flavour combinations, and I was blown away by the creativity of their cocktails.”

Finalists also enjoyed a trip to Tommy Bank’s farm where they learned about his devotion to ‘farm to fork’ dining, foraged for wild food, and tested their knowledge in the garden identity test. And as ever, Finals Week culminated in the Fine Dining Challenge, giving competitors the chance to go all out, showcasing their talent and creativity to partners, sponsors and hospitality leaders at The Grand, York.

Judge, Tommy Banks said: “It was a pleasure to host the finalists at my farm and share my passion for ‘farm to fork’ dining. Their enthusiasm as they foraged for wild food shone through and I was also impressed by their level of knowledge in the garden identity test. The Fine Dining Challenge was the perfect culmination of their journey, allowing them to showcase their talent and creativity to esteemed partners and influential leaders across the hospitality industry. It was an incredible experience, and I’m proud to have been able to play my part.”

Judge, Louisa Ellis said: “What a fantastic week. The perfect combination of inspiration, experiential learning and delicious food and drink! It’s been a pleasure judging and mentoring such talented individuals. I wish them all the very best in their careers.”

Katya Simmons, Managing Director of Nestlé Professional UK&I, said:

“Once again, the calibre of Toque d’Or competitors has been outstanding. We’ve been delighted by the talent we’ve seen for our 35th anniversary edition, and we’d like to congratulate everyone who made it through and poured their hearts and souls into the Grand Finals.”

“The competition epitomises our commitment to working closely with industry to support the next generation of hospitality professionals, providing them with the platform to really showcase their skills and creative flair. As part of this, it’s been a real pleasure to see so many pioneering businesses championing sustainability in our industry. They play a vital role; leading by example while showcasing all of the exciting careers available to young talent.”

“A big thank you to all who helped make this Finals Week – and indeed the whole of this year’s Toque d’Or so special.”

Joshua Kerr, City of Glasgow College, FOH Winner said: “I’m really proud of myself. To get to the final and be up against such talented people, who I now call friends, is a real privilege. Standing here as the winner of the front of house competition is the icing on the cake to what has been an incredible experience. It means so much and has given me an extra boost of confidence to really push myself in my career.”

Amber Clay, University College Birmingham, BOH Winner said: “It’s an incredible feeling to win the back of house competition. I’ve been thrown into the deep end, met some amazing people and learnt to not let fear hold me back. From meeting and cooking with Tommy Banks to learning about sustainable dairy farming, I’ve been able to develop a variety of new skills which will help me in my future career in hospitality.”

Joshua and Amber will go on to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Brazil where they’ll discover São Paulo’s vibrant gastronomy, learn about sustainable coffee in Espírito Santo, and enjoy a spectacular sightseeing trip in Rio de Janeiro. They’ll also experience a ‘bean to cup’ journey, learning about regenerative farming techniques at a Nescafé Plan coffee farm, before watching the beans being transformed into coffee at one of its leading flavour development labs.

The awards ceremony took place on Friday 30th June at Landing 42, London.