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TUCO launches annual skills competition

The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) has announced its online entry system is now open for its renowned annual TUCO Competitions event.

New categories designed to reflect the latest industry food and drinks trends have also been added to ensure competitors continue to innovate and evolve their skills as they battle it out for gold.

TUCO Competitions will return to the University of Warwick on 7-8 April 2020 and closing date for entries is Friday 31 January 2020 so act fast to take part.

Matthew White, chairman of TUCO said, “Every year the event grows as we create new categories and respond to competitor feedback from previous years. This renowned competition gives college and university caterers the change to showcase their skills and talents and provides an amazing opportunity for the industry to come together, inspire others and most importantly learn from one another.”

This year sees the Bar Competition renamed Mixology Competition. According to TUCO’s Global Food and Beverage Trends Report 2019, consumers want to see ingredients included in their drinks that have inherent health benefits, for example Kombucha in a cocktail. But they are also more likely to want textured drinks and drinks with bubbles.

The Mixology competition will test competitor’s knowledge and skills with some new and ‘old favourite’ rounds. TUCO Academy, TUCO’s award winning provider of learning for TUCO members, has an On-Trend Cocktails study tour in Manchester in March for those looking to enhance their cocktail/mocktail mixology knowledge.

TUCO Academy has also partnered with University College Birmingham to create a bespoke Mixology masterclass in February 2020. The course is designed to act as a great training opportunity for those taking part in the Mixology Competition.

Competitors entering the Cook and Serve Challenge, a three-person team event, will need to use TUCO’s ground-breaking greenhouse gas footprint calculator this year; https://www.tuco.ac.uk/ghgcalculator/index.html.

This online tool enables competitors to easily calculate the greenhouse gas footprint of their menus. This addition underlines TUCO’s commitment to sustainability and will help competitors really look at the issue of food miles when creating their three-course lunch.

New for this year is the Innovative Breakfast Challenge. According to TUCO’s Student Eating and Drinking Habits research cereal is still the number one choice for students at breakfast, but this trend is declining. TUCO is looking for competitors who can inspire students with an innovative breakfast option, it could be a twist, a fusion or something completely out of the box to wow the judges.

TUCO’s trend report showed that breakfast continues to be the most popular meal of the day, but consumers want to be able to eat it all day. This has seen all-day brunch establishments popping up across the globe.

The TUCO Academy created a study tour designed to inspire this trend called Breakfasts From Around the World that ran in November 2019. Look out for those inspired by this tour competing at this year’s event! The new Omelette Challenge is sure to create a buzz this year too.

The Love British Food Challenge is also new and will focus on a different item each year. This year it is the turn of pork. Competitors will be asked to deliver two portions of a main course using British pork all served with a suitable garnish and accompaniments.

The Vegan Challenge is another new category for this year. This reflects TUCO’s trend report that describes an on-going ‘plant-based revolution’. TUCO found more than 90% of plant-based meals eaten in the last year in the UK were eaten by Vegans.

Catering for this trend will encourage institutions to keep menus fresh and interesting and that will be the challenge for competitors; to conceive and cook two portions of a vegan dish that will appeal to vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

TUCO Academy is holding a number of Tours and Development Days in 2020 around vegetarian and vegan food designed to inspire the industry.

Favourite competition categories returning from previous years include the Barista Skills Challenge, Chef’s Challenge, Cook and Serve Challenge, Salon Culinaire (which sees three new classes, including the ‘proud of your area’ class to allow competitors to showcase a favourite item from their local area, for example the Manchester Tart) and the Photography Challenge.

Last year’s photography competition saw four talented photographers battle it out, this year TUCO hopes to see even more photographers vie for the crown. On 27 April 2020, TUCO Academy is running a Development Day on Professional Food Photography for those looking to improve on the quality of their food images.

These courses are perfect for those looking to improve the images on their websites, menus and even in their own portfolios.

The Barista Skills Competition will see competitors prepare four espressos, four cappuccinos and four of their own speciality espresso-based drinks all in 15 minutes.

In February this year TUCO Academy is running a Development Day called Lead Barista Experience. It has been designed for lead baristas looking to develop their professional career in coffee. This course provides an excellent training opportunity for Baristas wanting to enter this category.

Last year saw the introduction of a new entry fee of just £275 for the whole institution, it remains the same this year so no matter how many categories are entered, or how many members of a team compete, there is just one fee.

This fee includes two night’s accommodation with breakfast and dinner for each competitor. The Salon Culinaire remains free of charge to enter and includes day attendance for every participant.