Rising stars

Samantha Watkins
Toque d’Or 2022 Back of House winner

What do you currently do?
I’m studying level three larder at Loughborough College.

Why do you want to work in foodservice?
I always enjoyed creative and practical work growing up. I enjoy the hard work in the kitchen, but most importantly the rewarding feeling of customer satisfaction, making someone's day better thanks to something I have produced.

As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve continued to enjoy it. But the teamwork and good friends you make throughout the journey will always be the best part.

How did you come to enter the competition?
I came across Nestlé Toque d'Or through my chef lecturer Darren Creed. He suggested I enter the competition to challenge myself, as it’s known to be tough. It also suited me particularly well as it was based around sustainability and plant-based food, and I’m vegetarian myself.

What did you have to do when entering?
To enter, I had to submit an image of a chicken ballotine. A selection of entrants then progressed to the next stage – a multiple-choice test on sustainability, balanced diets and plant-based diets, and a 30-second video submission on why we were passionate about hospitality, which we posted on Instagram. Next, a smaller selection of contestants went through to the next stage of the competition.

How did it feel when you found out you had won?
When my name was called out at the awards, I was in shock! It felt surreal and I was flooded with so much exhilaration, it took me some time to process what had actually happened. I still look back at the photos of the competition and am stunned that it happened. The whole experience passed so quick; I loved every bit of it! 

Toque d'Or is one of several competitions I’ve competed in this year. I enjoy competing as it allows me to progress my skillset, but also push further into my career, allowing amazing opportunities to arise. Meeting the incredible chef judges has been really good too, as they were very supportive and helpful.

Competing in competitions, especially Toque d'Or, has helped my career develop immensely. That includes everything from my social media platform, or just to have been given the opportunity to work for some amazing chefs as a result.

How do you see your career developing? What is your biggest ambition?
I want to keep progressing as a chef and to grow my understanding, so my biggest ambition is to continue learning everything and anything there is about culinary arts and food while traveling. Then, with all this knowledge, I’d like to have my own successful business in the future.

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