Dan Jeffs, one of our young Warwickshire chefs has reached the national heats of the Nestlé Professional Toque D’Or, one of the country’s most influential training and development initiatives, and will be going on to represent the Midlands in this year’s competition.
Dividing his time between The One Elm in Stratford-upon-Avon and The Star & Garter in Leamington Spa, he signed up for the competition whilst working on his NVQ Level 3 in Professional Cookery, at the suggestion of his lecturer. Despite this being his first competition, Dan was keen to put his skills to the test and take back what he’s learnt from working in the pubs.
Now in its 30th year, the Nestlé Professional Toque D’Or is a prestigious industry competition encouraging apprentice and junior chefs to broaden their culinary horizons. Using a series of real-life challenges; like devising a new food or restaurant concept and pitching it to a group of investors, as well as a recipe test, entrants are put through their paces.
In the first round of the competition, Dan was charged with creating a vegetarian dish from a list of ingredients chosen by the organisers, along the theme of ‘Good Food, Good Life’. He then had to cook a portion of the dish and submit a video explaining his thinking behind the dish and what inspired him to take part.
The dish he put forward, along with his passion for food and cooking, earned him a place in the national heats next month, and means he will be travelling to London to cook for industry experts and chefs such as Michelin-starred Simon Hulstone.
He will be scored, alongside the 45 other contenders, on working methods and cooking skill as well as plating style and working under pressure. One overall winner will be chosen, and awarded a mentorship and stage with a leading chef as well as equipment and vouchers.
Between now and the finals on 10th March, Dan will be working on cooking his dish to perfection and ensuring he puts his best foot forwards in the competition. “I’m proud of my dish as it uses ingredients I love and yet is a little different; the colours and flavours really stand out but it’s got a lightness to it,” he says.
“Some chefs are wary of vegetarian dishes but I was keen to give it a go and thought I would just try my best. It’s obviously paid off as I’ve been lucky enough to get through to the national heats.
“Winning would of course be brilliant, but getting this far has been a big confidence booster and it’s going to be an amazing experience to cook for the judges. I’m really looking forward to it and to representing the region in the competition,” he says.
Guests at The One Elm and The Star & Garter can try his dish – Beetroot Gnocchi with Smoked Garlic and Thyme Infused Cream, Wild Mushroom and Pine Nut Fricassée garnished with Salad Fennel – by ordering it from the specials board at the pubs.
We wish him all the luck!