Hospitality students from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic have sharpened their knives and are ready to battle it out in a live kitchen cook-off in Auckland this week.
Culinary Arts students Janice Ward, Sasha Turfrey and Kristina McLaren will vie against 33 other hospitality students in a bid to take out the top title at the annual Nestlé Toque d'Or competition.
Team Manager Lee Pearce said this year's all female team has what it takes to compete with the experienced and best for this well sort after title.
"The kitchen team of Janice and Sasha 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, guided by Simon Green of Trinity Wharf. Kristina a fellow chef classmate is learning new restaurant service skills from expert Gary Cannon and now looks and acts the part well.
"The kitchen teams' competitive edge is their creativity and pursuit of excellence. This is their first cooking competition but they are well prepared. Controlling their nerves will be challenge number one.
"This is such a great opportunity to be pushed and to learn how to cope with the demands of competition. Last year's kitchen team, Sam and Caroline are working in two of Auckland's best restaurants proving that hard work has its rewards."
NZChefs National President and event organizer, Graham Hawkes, said the students will be competing at a prestigious event which is highly-regarded by the hospitality industry.
"Competitors are placed into a high-pressure environment where they have to perform at their very best, if they want to take out the coveted top award," he said.
The teams of three students must impress a top panel of industry judges by cooking and serving six covers of a three course meal within just two-and-a-half hours.
"This year, we have secured the involvement of high profile culinary figures including: chef and restauranteur Simon Gault, National Vice President Australian Culinary Federation Andre Kropp and WorldChefs Culinary Committee member Gary Farrell.
"The judges mark each team against WorldChefs International Judging Standards which include food preparation, presentation, taste and service."
He said the competitors have to meet strict time deadlines for delivery of each course and develop their own unique menus, using predetermined ingredients.
"To further challenge competitors, a special Innovation Award sponsored by Moffat will be presented to the team that best demonstrates new and innovative ways of using Nestlè Professional products across the menus that they create."
Graham said the competition opens doors for competing students and gives them valuable opportunities to kick-start their careers.
He said he is looking forward to seeing how the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic students perform this year, alongside all the other competitors who will be vying for the top spot.
"The standard at the competition is always high and I'm confident that this year will be no exception, particularly as the event is celebrating a milestone 25 year anniversary. The winning team will be the one that gets it right on the day and delivers a seamless dining experience from start to finish."
The 25th Nestlé Toque d'Or will be held on 30 July 2015 at the Auckland Showgrounds and members of the public can attend. An awards dinner will be held later in the evening where the winning team will be announced.