Ara trio to compete in Nestle Toque d’Or announced

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24 Apr 2018

Shikylah Dearnley (19), Chahna Davis (20), and Navneet Narayan (20) are raring to go following the announcement that they have been selected to represent Ara Institute of Canterbury at Nestlé Toque d’Or on August 13.

The Toque d'Or trio can't wait to represent Ara at the national competition 

In the four months prior to competing the trio will take part in an extensive training programme led by Department of Hospitality and Service Industries staff Mark Sycamore (Cookery), Adele Hingston (Patisserie) and Adrian Hilhorst (Hospitality).

“We will train hard. Approximately 100 hours between now and the competition in August. Students need to be prepared to make that time commitment on top of their studies, and other part time work,” Sycamore says.

The event, which takes place at the New Zealand Culinary Fare in Auckland, is New Zealand’s premier and most prestigious student hospitality competition. This year it celebrates 28 years.

“We have a proud history with Toque d’Or,” Sycamore says.

Chahna Davis is looking forward to the competition. “It’s going to be so exciting, the experience of competing. Just being in that atmosphere… that’s going to be amazing. Plus it’s so good for our CVs, and our futures.”

It is clear this year’s trio have the drive to succeed. “You have to aim for the top. You don’t want to aim for second, you know? We have to get it. We really want to win,” Davis says.

Ara, and it’s predecessors Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and Aoraki Polytechnic, have won the annual competition fourteen and one times respectively out of the twenty-seven times it has been held since 1991. The Institute last took home the first place title in 2013, and this year’s team are hoping they can do it again.

Winning first place at Toque d’Or is no small feat, and the national competition can be just the place to shine a spotlight on emerging culinary and restaurant service superstars.

Sycamore agrees, “This competition has launched the careers for a number of our current industry leaders and has contributed enormously to consistently shaping the industry for the last 25 years.”

But if last year is anything to go by, Shikylah, Chahna and their server, Navneet, all students of the New Zealand Diploma in Cookery (Level 5)- Patisserie strand, can expect stiff competition.

In 2017, ten of the country’s top training institutes competed.
“We expect students to push themselves. They’ll be up against Institute’s from around the country who will be training equally hard,” Sycamore says.

No stranger to competition himself, Sycamore who was a former executive chef of the (now closed) Christchurch restaurant Tequila Mockingbird, has represented New Zealand at the Culinary Olympics in 2016, in which his team brought back a silver, and two bronze medals.

To succeed at Nestlé Toque d’Or each team must prepare six covers of a three-course menu within a set timeframe, to impress a panel of 16 industry judges including guest judge Anton Mosimann- a Swiss chef with two Michelin stars.

“We’re going to be training really hard. So it’s just about putting the hours in and really focusing. If we put all our time and effort into it we should succeed,” Davis says.