Published on February 14, 2023

Team North Hertfordshire College have made it through to the finals of Zest Quest Asia 2023!

Fresh off the back of competing in 2022’s finals, James Wheatley (Level 3 Professional Cookery student) is bringing his industry experience from his workplace and the lessons he learnt from last year’s competition to the judging table for 2023. We found out more about how Zest Quest Asia fits in with James’ career journey so far and the lessons he’s taken from his industry experience – read more in his Student Snapshot below!

How has the Zest Quest Asia competition supported you on your career journey?

“Since getting to the finals of Zest Quest Asia last year, I made it my goal to further myself in every direction of the restaurant industry. I knew I enjoyed cooking; I knew I enjoyed people eating my food – but besides that, I knew nothing deeper about what goes on. Since then, I have been working my way up in my workplace (The View at Pegsdon) to become chef de partie, then recently to junior sous chef, and a promotion to sous chef lined up for 6 months’ time.”

That’s an impressive accomplishment so early in your career! What has your experience taught you so far?

“It has opened my eyes to more of what hospitality can hold, such as the fellowship and joy of people eating my food, but also more of the business side too. I have had to complete full orders for the restaurant, negotiated deals with suppliers for better prices on produce, and worked closely with the head chef to create new menus, each time getting better and better. But however far I end up making it in my journey through catering, I will never forget my roots – baking cupcakes with my nan and licking the back of the spoon!”

What are your hopes for this year’s Zest Quest Asia finals?

“This year, I strongly believe all three of us have worked tremendously hard to create the best menu we could. We have even been planning this year’s menu since the morning after the finals last year! Despite not winning, we still came away on a high, but more importantly we came away with more drive and more motivation to do even better this year – and hopefully win!”


Best of luck to James, Emily, and Phil with the finals of Zest Quest Asia! We can’t wait to see how it goes.

If you’re feeling inspired to start your own journey in the Catering sector, be sure to check out North Hertfordshire College’s Hospitality and Catering courses. With NHC, you can stay close to home and compete in amazing competitions that help you go far in your future career!

Meet the Zest Quest Asia 2023 finalists