Published on April 13, 2022

Emily Simkins, James Wheatley, and Phil Maddison, three of North Hertfordshire College’s Level 2 catering students, recently competed in the finals of Zest Quest Asia 2022 at the Hilton London Heathrow. The team cooked up a storm in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, before coming away as the winners of Best Use of British Produce and Best Wine Pairing!

As part of the final round of the competition, Emily, James, and Phil designed and cooked an Asian-inspired menu featuring a vegan amuse bouche, starter, main course, and dessert, as well as wine pairings that complemented their dishes, which were then served to panels of expert chefs and wine specialists for judging. Our student chefs then took part in a roundtable discussion with the judges where they were asked questions about the preparation of each dish as well as socio-political and environmental factors involved with the ingredients chosen.

At the end of the cook-off, NHC’s team and their tutor, Anthony Gascoigne, attended the gala dinner and awards ceremony, coming away with two amazing awards in recognition of their work!

Emily Simkins, one of NHC’s Level 2 Professional Cookery students who took part in the competition, said: “To be able to compete in Zest Quest Asia was an amazing opportunity. It was such a fun experience and I can’t wait to work 10 times harder for next year! We have dedicated ourselves to the competition for the last five months in practice and preparation, and all the hard work really paid off. I feel inspired now to explore other Asian cuisines and test my skills further.”

Phil Maddison, another of our Zest Quest Asia finalists and Level 2 Professional Cookery students, agreed with Emily, saying: “The Zest Quest Asia competition was an amazing experience from start to finish. Everybody involved was so accommodating and the teamwork from all the colleges even extended to other teams, which was amazing to see. The competition was really fierce, and this experience will definitely benefit me in the future. I can’t wait for next year!”

Taking part in competitions like Zest Quest Asia helps our students to test their skills, build their network of contacts, and enhance their CVs ready for the next step in their professional journey, but reaching the final of a competition also brings an added confidence boost!

Zest Quest is a regular staple in the NHC Catering course calendar, with our students regularly taking part in the competition. Anthony Gascoigne, one of NHC’s catering tutors, said: “Zest Quest Asia encourages and inspires our young chefs to learn the cuisines of countries which are not necessarily on the curriculum and, as a result, has extended the students’ college experience. It offers students the space to be creative in a competitive environment, going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest colleges in the UK. Hosted by celebrated chef Cyrus Todiwala, the competition is rigorous and requires 100% commitment. I am so proud the students gave that and more to come away with two special awards, Best Use of British Produce and Best Wine Pairing.”

Well done again to our amazing trainee chefs!

If you’ve been inspired by Emily, James, and Phil’s success in Zest Quest, and fancy seeing what you can do, why not join NHC for a catering course? Check out our available course options and find what’s right for you!