Published on January 30, 2023

Story by our guest writer, Becca McKechnie, Level 3 Business Studies student from North Hertfordshire College

Three of NHC’s Level 3 Professional Cookery students Phil Maddison, James Wheatley, and Emily Simkins have been announced as finalists of the Zest Quest Asia 2023 competition. The students will take part in the live cook-off final on Friday 17th February 2023 and have the opportunity to hold the title of Champions of Zest Quest Asia 2023.

The students had done extensive research in preparation for their final entry to Zest Quest 2023. The students have used their knowledge and skills gained throughout their experiences at North Hertfordshire College to create their final entry. The students Phil, James and Emily chose the country Thailand for their final entry and have used their research and knowledge to represent the country “combining tradition with innovation perfectly”, according to their course team leader Anthony Gascoigne.

Anthony personally believes that this is their “strongest entry yet” and is very proud

of what the students have already achieved. The students and staff enjoyed the challenge of sourcing ingredients caused by Brexit supply issues, leading the students to discover the importance of British produce and build strong positive relationships with local high street food shops. The students crafted and wanted their final Thai food entry to be “generous in nature, rooted in tradition yet innovative with a strong emphasis on community, seasonal approach and above all packed with flavour”. The students came back stronger this year with their passion, experience, wider knowledge, and pure motivation.

The students have shown their understanding of Thai culture by representing the sense of community. They believe that their menu “unites and reflects a diverse range of techniques, ingredients, and methods of cooking” which shows that they understand what their menu represents.

Finalists were announced the 4th of January and the students are through to the live cook-off final in February. A seven-to-ten-day trip will be awarded to the winners of the Zest Quest Asia; the trip is said to be an “educational trip of a lifetime”.


Best of luck to our student chefs with the finals!


If you’re interested in starting your own career in the Catering industry, be sure to check out North Hertfordshire College’s Catering and Hospitality courses. With NHC, you can stay close to home while competing in challenges that help you go far in your future career!

Get to know the NHC team for the 2023 finals