Published on February 23, 2023

North Hertfordshire College is proud to announce that Level 3 Professional Cookery students Phil Maddison, Emily Simkins, and James Wheatley won a total of three awards at the finals of Zest Quest Asia 2023 for their Thai-inspired menu!

Our student chefs scooped the awards for ‘Best Use of the Tormek Knife Sharpener’ and ‘Best Use of Hallde Food Processor’ for their performance on the day, equipment which will soon be added to NHC’s training kitchens for all our student chefs to benefit from as part of the prize package. But that’s not all – the NHC dream team also brought home the coveted ‘Best Use of Tilda Rice’ award. They’ll soon be jetting off to Po Valley, Italy, alongside chef lecturer and mentor Anthony Gascoigne for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn more about Tilda’s rice production and Italian cuisine!

This isn’t the first time that Emily, James, and Phil have competed on a national stage. The team members have each achieved great things during their studies at North Hertfordshire College both individually and as a team. They even reached the finals of Zest Quest Asia last academic year, bringing home two awards for their Japanese-inspired menu. They’ve also each seized every opportunity that’s come their way in college, extracurricular opportunities, and in their part-time work to build their skills and prepare for the finals. This includes working alongside Michelin-starred chefs at fast-paced events like Pub in the Park and a recent work placement opportunity at Fortnum & Mason.

The student chefs are positive about their performance in the competition and the things they’ve learnt during the preparation and competition process. Check out their thoughts below:


Anthony Gascoigne, Catering Tutor at North Hertfordshire College, said: “Zest Quest Asia is one of the most challenging yet rewarding student culinary competitions out there. It demands not only knowledge of Asian cuisines, but the technical skills required to complete the dishes. The students worked hard, represented themselves and the College impeccably, and won three incredible prizes, including an educational trip to Italy and kitchen equipment. The competition, hosted by Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala, raises expectations and aspirations amongst the students and exposes them to cuisine not necessarily on the curriculum. All in all, a fantastic experience for everyone involved.”

Kit Davies, Principal of North Hertfordshire College, commented on the students’ achievements: “What an amazing set of prizes to win. Many congratulations to our three brilliant students and, as always, a massive thank you to Anthony and the team for preparing them so well for this competition.”


Congratulations again to Emily, James, and Phil on your amazing achievement!


Are you ready to put your own catering skills to the test? Check out North Hertfordshire College’s Catering & Hospitality courses for your own chance to build your knowledge and compete in national competitions. With NHC, you can stay close to home and access amazing career-enhancing experiences, helping you go far in your future.