Nestlé Professional today announced this year’s Toque d’Or® competition finalists, following an action-packed Heats round which included several days of intense challenges and expert mentoring.

The 48 students who competed at the Heats enjoyed a learning experience of a lifetime. BOH competitors were tasked with creating a nutritious and sustainable plant-based main course, after experiencing a masterclass from Whitbread’s Senior Quality & Innovation Chef, Paul Fletcher. Using GARDEN GOURMET’S SENSATIONAL burger as the hero ingredient for their dish, students were able to choose from a larder of ingredients to help create an innovative main course. The eventual winner of the BOH competition will be offered the opportunity to develop their plant-based dish, before being featured across Whitbread’s menus.

Commenting after delivering his masterclass, Paul Fletcher said: “I was really impressed by the level of skill our students demonstrated, with many high-quality dishes being put forward. It was also encouraging to see how innovative our chefs were in their approach to plant-based cooking, which we know has become a mainstay in people’s diets. We look forward to working with the winner of the back of house competition on an exciting opportunity to feature their plant-based dish on our menus here at Whitbread.”

Furthermore, BOH competitors had to replicate a plant-based starter created by guest judge Louisa Ellis, which featured GARDEN GOURMET’S SENSATIONAL pulled fillet. Nestlé Professional’s Business Development Chef, Darren Chapman, oversaw the BOH competition during the Heats, supporting students by offering his expertise on plant-based diets.

Well-respected sommelier and guest judge, Raul Diaz, delivered a wine and customer service masterclass to FOH students before they were tasked with serving both red and white wine to guests during a lunch service. Nestlé Professional coffee training specialist, Aaron Dunn, delivered a further masterclass on how to make the perfect latte which FOH students had to serve as part of the overall lunch service. 2021 FOH Toque d’Or winner and now guest judge, Sophie Taylor, supported students during the Heats competition.

Commenting after the national Heats round, Raul Diaz said: “It was a pleasure to see the passion of our students come through in this stage of the competition. They were able to learn about the art of hospitality and put everything into practice through an intense lunch service, from delivering excellent customer service to confidently explaining food and wine pairings to guests. Well done to everyone who took part!”

The 12 BOH and FOH students advancing into the Grand Finals are:

Back of House

  • Elycia Rayner, Westminster Kingsway
  • Emily Simkins, North Hertfordshire College
  • Catherine Ripley, Westminster Kingsway
  • Owen Marsh, Milton Keynes
  • James Wheatley, North Hertfordshire College
  • Amber Clay, University College Birmingham


Front of House

  • Alexander Lloyd, Aryshire College – Kilmarnock Campus
  • Joshua Kerr, City of Glasgow College
  • Chloe Collinwood, Cardiff & Vale
  • Raheim Saddler, North Hertfordshire College
  • Alison Watson, North Hertfordshire College
  • Ryan James, Coleg Cambria

Katya Simmons, managing director Nestlé Professional UK&I said: “The Heats have been both challenging and rewarding for everyone. It was an intense, action-packed round and the standard was incredibly high, so everyone who has taken part should be very proud. As we look ahead to an exciting Final’s week, I want to wish the very best of luck to our 12 finalists who will be put to the test one last time.”

Taking place in York for the first time ever, The Finals will comprise a series of challenges built around the overarching theme of sustainability with a key focus on home-grown, locally sourced produce. Competitors will get the opportunity to sharpen their skills while exploring the latest culinary trends and learning about farm-to-fork dining. Some challenges have been created by the competition judges, including the Fine Dining Challenge which will see BOH finalists replicate a menu created by two-Michelin star chef Tommy Banks.

The Grand Finals will take place from 4th-8th June 2023, with the winners announced during the Awards lunch on Friday 30th June 2023. The Finals will be judged by award-winning chef and restaurateur, Tommy Banks; MasterChef: The Professionals, The Festive Knockout winner Louisa Ellis; educator and well-respected sommelier and wine expert, Raul Diaz; and 2021 FOH Toque d’Or winner, Sophie Taylor. Several high-profile foodservice and hospitality companies will be revealed as competition partners during the Grand Finals, with each creating their own bespoke challenge for students of which they will help judge.

This year’s winners will enjoy a once in a lifetime culinary trip to Brazil, sampling high-end gastronomy through to street food, and learning about sustainability on a bean to cup journey with the world’s biggest coffee producer. Discovering the vibrant gastronomic scene of São Paulo, learning about coffee and sustainability in Espírito Santo, and sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro, they’ll be inspired by new tastes and flavours from the country. The winners will also visit a flavour development lab and coffee farm, which is part of the Nescafé Plan, to learn more about regenerative agriculture and coffee.