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Chef Sam wins dream food trip to Dubai after winning major UK competition

EPA 2022 conference

Super student chef Sam Watkins is heading for a dream trip to Dubai after winning one of the UK’s toughest cookery competitions.

Sam, 18, from Loughborough, won the ‘Back of House Student’ category at the Nestle Toque d’Or 2022 Grand Final after a gruelling three-day finale in London.

Her prize is an all expenses paid trip to the World Chefs Congress & Expo 2022 in Abu Dhabi, as well as a gastronomic weekend in Dubai.

She said: “When they called my name out as a winner, it was mind-blowing. I don’t know want to think right now. It has been an amazing week and I’ve learned so much. There are things I feel I can improve on but to be honest, the whole week has felt like a really fun holiday!

“The prize is amazing. Feels like it’s too much for a prize! But I’m really excited to have won.”

The final was a three-day experience during which judges scrutinised the finalists’ every move, team working skill, adaptability and how well they understood each element of the tasks. Finalists were observed closely during educational visits to farms to learn about sustainable foods and bee pollination; animal welfare and an exploration of ingredients at world famous Borough Market in London.

The final challenge put competitors together in a fine-dining kitchen to produce high-quality dishes for guests.

Darren Creed, Sam’s tutor and the College’s Curriculum Manager for hospitality and catering, said: “This is the icing on the cake for Sam who is having a remarkable year in competitions and in her development as a chef. We are so proud of her.

This is easily one of the toughest competitions going and to win it is a testament to her incredible skill, her passion and her desire to continuously improve. They have really set her apart. She is so humble with it and is an absolute pleasure to teach.

The Toque d’Or was judged by MasterChef: The Professionals, The Festive Knockout winner Louisa Ellis, educator and well-respected sommelier and wine expert, Raul Diaz, as well as guest judges.

As well as the trip abroad, the Savoy Education Trust will also be providing £1,000 for each of the colleges taking part in the Grand Finals and £2,500 for the winning colleges to be used to purchase equipment from Russums.

Earlier this year, Sam finished second in the national Riso Gallo Young Risotto Chef of the Year and so impressed one of the judges that he offered her a job in his restaurant.

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