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EIT Hospitality Students Serve up Silver in National Competition

September 15, 2010

Touched by the travel bug, Laura McKay is dreaming of jobs on cruise ships and working in Europe’s ritziest restaurants after scoring a silver medal at the recent Nestlé Toque d’Or competition.

The 18-year-old EIT Hawke’s Bay student has good reason for feeling ambitious.  In its 20th year, the national competition for culinary and front of house students is widely regarded as a launching pad for a successful career in the international hospitality industry.

EIT invited Laura to take part in the front of house section of Toque d’Or, which was staged in Auckland.  A committed student, she was expected to perform well against the very best entered from training institutions right across the country.

“It was a nerve-racking experience,” the former Hastings Girls’ High School student says of the competition, “but exhilarating too.

“I did wonder how I would go under pressure.  I knew I was ready to take part but didn’t realise how well-trained I was or how far I had come in the seven to eight months since starting my EIT course.”

Serving a table of diners in front of a panel of demanding judges, Laura didn’t give in to nerves when the cork jammed in the neck of a bottle of wine.

“We could see it wasn’t coming out easily,” her tutor Celia Kurta says, “but Laura was unfazed.  She talked convincingly to her customers about the qualities of the wine as she eased out the cork.”

Laura wanted to train in hospitality because she likes people and enjoys helping them.  Last summer she worked as a cellar door assistant at Craggy Range, and staff at the winery encouraged her to pursue her ambition by taking up the opportunity to do EIT’s Certificate in Front of House Operations (Advanced).

Pushing herself on the course, she now expects to have a range of five related certificates when she completes the year.
“It’s a City & Guilds qualification and is recognised worldwide.  It can take me anywhere and everyone in the hospitality world understands and appreciates its significance.”

Laura thinks she may do more study, building on what she’s already achieved.

“There is so much you can do.  I was the youngest in the class starting here, but this course has taken me as a school-leaver and pulled my maturity up.”

Study may be on hold for next year, however, as Laura considers how she might best scratch that travel bug.

Adding to EIT’s haul of silverware were Adam Lambert, 22, and Jayden Winterburn, 21, who competed in the overall “Golden Hat” category of the Toque d’Or competition.  The student chefs won their silver medals after an intensive live-kitchen cook-off against 11 other teams.

As with Laura, Jayden and Adam’s preparation involved months of hard work.  Serving up their dishes for customers at EIT’s Scholars Restaurant, the pair perfected a menu of salmon entrée, main of bone marrow sausage, sirloin steak and Jerusalem artichoke puree and a tour de force dessert of caramel mousse cake with couverture cream, peanut  ganache and buttermilk coconut gelato.

EIT team manager Mark Caves says the success of the three students was well-deserved and would set them up for careers in the hospitality industry.

“If you do well in the Toque d’Or, then you are pretty much set for the rest of your life.”