The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge has become an annual milestone. The competition is organised by showcook.com’s Annette Kesler and Chania Morritt-Smith, who bring together a network of mentors and sponsors to support the next generation of executive chefs, sommeliers and master bakers through the competition. Sadly, this year the COVID-19 pandemic scuppered the traditional format, but we chatted to Chania and Annette to find out how they’ve adapted and taken the Challenge online.
How has the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge journey changed this year? It has changed drastically but at the same time I think we have managed to keep the essence of the competition intact. As the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge is a life changing opportunity for many, it has been vital to continue doing what we had begun and not leave these young people in limbo. Fortuitously, we had already launched the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge in Johannesburg and Durban and then a few days before lockdown we were able to meet with the teams in Cape Town so all was in place. At that stage no one could anticipate what lay ahead, the many months that led to the closure of vast areas of the hospitality business.
How has the virtual experience been going so far? How are the candidates adapting to the process? With travel off the cards, fortunately the education continued during this period as we managed to obtain data by the kind grace of MTN which meant that our Wine Stewards, wherever they were, could actually participated in both the Grape to Glass series and the Skills Exchange Development Programme.
What have some of the highlights been along the way? We arranged a virtual international line-up across the spectrum of some talented well-known contributors to the hospitality world who inspire by example. So the studies continued unabated with both the excellent Cape Wine Academy and Sommeliers Academy certification at their own pace, which is different but has worked. The Cook-Off will take place at the beginning of December. We hope by then all hotels will be back operating, albeit from a low base.
Are there any milestones for us to look out for in both of the competitions? There has been tremendous interest in the Concierges and Barista programme this year. The winning Pastry Chef in the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge will have the opportunity of being whisked off to France by Lancewood to take up a superb prize of an internship at the most supremely elegant La Creuzette in Boussac, where the cuisine is quite exceptional with Louis Jansen van Vuuren, Hardy Olivier and DeVerra Auret. They will record their days and (no doubt) exquisite creations on a CANON EOS M6 MkII state of the art camera! We look forward to following on Instagram!