Three local hospitality students have dedicated their semester break to perfecting their skills as they prepare to battle it out in an elite national culinary competition.
Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic culinary arts students Shivansh Uppal, Adrian Soriano and Tania Williams will compete against 30 other hospitality students to impress a panel of top industry judges at the prestigious Nestle Toque d'Or competition in Auckland next week.
The teams of three students must cook and serve, within an allotted timeframe, six covers of a three course meal that they have developed themselves. At the same time, their performance is marked by the judges using WorldChefs International Judging Standards.
Mr Soriano said he dropped out of university, where he was doing a business degree, to pursue cooking at Waiariki.
"My family had a restaurant in the Philippines so from the time I was 4 or 5 I was in the kitchen.
"For me, cooking is not a job, it's a passion."
Mr Uppal said cooking was something he always wanted to learn.
"I love food and I love trying new things with food. It has been hard doing this competition while trying to keep up with our regular school work as well, that's probably been the biggest challenge."
The pair agreed the competition was a great learning curve and something every culinary student should strive to take part in.
Miss Williams, who will be doing front of house, said she was both excited and nervous.
"I'm glad I'm doing the competition because it's good for my confidence but at the same time I am nervous because I'm quite shy."
Team managers Jonathan Chemis and Sandy McClay said this year's team was on track for success and was looking forward to demonstrating their skills against New Zealand's best up-and-coming culinary stars.
"The team have worked hard to create a fantastic creative menu. They are now in the full swing of training, putting in the endless hours it takes to iron out the bumps.
"The kitchen team's competitive edge is their creativity and pursuit of excellence. Controlling their nerves will be challenging but they have what it takes to win."
The 26th Nestle Toque d'Or will be held next Thursday at the Auckland Showgrounds.