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Ara’s Toque d’Or team plated up gold

Yesterday, three outstanding hospitality students from Ara defended last year’s title of Supreme Winner in the prestigious annual Nestlé Toque d’Or student culinary competition and served up a menu that was worth its weight in gold.

Ara’s patisserie tutor and Toque d’Or team Manager, Adele Hingston, says fellow mentors Michael Andrew and Heather Dyksma as well as the students are absolutely thrilled about winning the competition back-to-back.

“A lot of hard work was put into training for this competition and it is wonderful to see the students shine.”

“We had tough competitors. The fact that there were only three teams didn’t really make it any easier. Instead it actually put more pressure on us.”

The kitchen team, Corentin Esquenet and Anu Kashyap, had to prepare a three-course menu within a set timeframe in a live kitchen cook off while front of house student Ben Crean’s excellent service skills stood out to the diners.

The menu started with an entree of Akaroa Salmon sous vide with burnt citrus salt, cucumber jelly, beetroot puree, crème fraiche and granola as entrée followed by a New Zealand beef sirloin served with beef short rib dumpling, cauliflower and horseradish puree, kumara fondant, sauté greens, salsa verde and red wine braising jus for the main course. The stunning desert, a milk chocolate, hazelnut and passionfruit entremet with lemon and buckwheat crumb, chocolate ribbon and burnt butter crème brulée ice cream, concluded the menu.

The dishes impressed a panel of top industry judges headed by high profile and leading culinary figure Darren Wright from Christchurch. All teams were graded against WorldChefs International Judging Standards, which include food preparation, presentation, taste and service.

Winning Toque d’Or also included a culinary trip to Australia. The Ara-team received an invitation to attend Fine Foods Sydney and watch the national final of the Australian Toque d’Or competition.

Nestlé Toque d’Or is a nationwide tough cooking and service challenge and winning first place is no small feat. The national competition has proven to be the platform to shine a spotlight on emerging culinary and restaurant service superstars.

Ara, and its predecessors Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and Aoraki Polytechnic, have previously won the annual competition fifteen and one time(s) respectively out of the twenty-seven times it has been held since 1991. The Institute last took home the first place title in 2018.

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