Ara Institute of Canterbury Ltd Tops in Culinary Stakes

News News & events

14 Aug 2018

A team from Ara Institute of Canterbury Ltd fought off fierce competition from around the country to win the top award in the prestigious annual Nestlé Toque d’Or student culinary competition.

Culinary students Shikylah Dearnley and Chahna Victoria Davis proved to be champs in the kitchen picking up two gold medals, while Navneet Narayan dazzled diners at the event with his restaurant service skills to receive a silver medal.

(from left) Chahna Victoria Davis, Navneet Narayan and Shikylah Dearnley have brought the Nestle Toque D'or back to Ara.

The trio battled it out against 21 other students and trainees from around the country to create and serve their award-winning menu which took out the top spot at the competition.

The dishes comprised a starter of olive oil poached vine tomato salad, seared Akaroa salmon cured in seaweed salt with hot smoked Akaroa salmon with horseradish pate and a main of blue cheese rubbed New Zealand beef sirloin with braised beef cheek with a kumara and blue cheese custard. Dessert was a glazed blond chocolate mousse. The use of fresh New Zealand vegetables was maximised across the menu to add enhanced colour, texture and flavour.

"This is the fifteenth time in the 28-year

history of the competition that the award

has been won by a team from


The pressure was on throughout the three hours live kitchen cook off, as the team fought against the clock and scrutiny of a panel of top industry judges including culinary legend Anton Mosimann of the UK. Any errors made by competitors during the event resulted in lost points.

The group of judges was led by high profile chef and leading culinary figure Darren Wright of Christchurch. Competing teams were marked against WorldChefs International Judging Standards which included food preparation, presentation, taste and service.

This is the fifteenth time in the 28-year history of the competition that the award has been won by a team from Christchurch. The annual event is a key fixture on the culinary calendar and is hotly contested by the country’s leading hospitality institutes.

Shikylah said she and her team mates were elated to have won the competition, after training so hard for it.

“We’ve spent so many days creating and perfecting the menu and our routines so that we were ready to go on competition day. At the end of day, it was all about getting the teamwork right, supporting each other, staying calm and having fun.”

The team’s trainer Mark Sycamore said the team had done an outstanding job, supported by restaurant trainer Adrian Hilhorst and pastry chef trainer Adele Hingston.

“Bringing home the top award is a fantastic achievement not only for the students and the Institute but also for the Canterbury region.

“This win clearly demonstrates that the Canterbury region has a lot to offer in terms of hospitality and culinary creativity. It further cements Ara Institute of Canterbury Ltd’s position as being a centre of excellence when it comes to the training of hospitality students.”

Event organiser and New Zealand Chefs Association President Graham Hawkes said Nestlé Toque d’Or is the ultimate challenge for hospitality students.

“They have to keep it together, tame nerves, support each other and work seamlessly as a team to achieve a top performance on competition day.

“Aside from the competitive element, the event also opens many doors for the students by placing them in front of hospitality professionals from around the country who are scouting for new talent.”

This year was the 28th anniversary of Nestlé Toque d’Or which is New Zealand’s longest running and most prestigious student cookery and restaurant service event. Aside from New Zealand, it is also held in 17 other countries around the world and has launched the careers of many world-famous chefs.

Sponsors of this year’s event were: Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb New Zealand,, Akaroa Salmon, House of Knives and Moffat.