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:
Zest Quest Asia was an amazing experience for all of us. We learnt so much about Asian cuisine that would not usually be in our learning curriculum, and we had fun while doing it. The hours were long and the days extensive – but the pay-off was massive. All our hard work became evident as, against some fierce competition, we won ‘Best Use of Tilda Rice’. Thank you to Chef Todiwala for hosting the event.
Zest Quest Asia is a competition I would recommend for all young developing chefs. It really broadens your knowledge of Asian cuisine and encourages you to work closely as a team. Such a great experience, the organisers provide lots of information so you have the best possible chance of going far – so long as you put in the time and effort required. It was fun using the sponsors and experimenting where we could use them in the menu and learning about the products themselves.
Overall, it has been a memorable experience to compete in Zest Quest Asia for the last two years and I would encourage any young chef to take part.
Being able to have another chance at competing in Zest Quest for our second and final time was an opportunity none of our team could pass up. I’m so glad we decided to put in all the extra work and late nights at college again to get us to the finals, to network with some amazing chefs and members of the culinary world, and ultimately come home with three of the twelve awards on offer – including the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Milan to see how Tilda rice is produced.
We’ve also won some wonderful equipment to be used by us and future students of North Hertfordshire College, to whom I would say: Never let an opportunity go to waste and always try your hardest!
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.