The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge launched its 2020 edition earlier this year – but the Covid-19 pandemic derailed its plans to host its annual series of in-person mentorship, cook-offs and gala dinner, showcasing and celebrating talent within the hotel industry. The organisers of the competition, Chania Morritt-Smith and Annette Kesler, are now turning to distance learning in its goal to train and hone the skills of tomorrow’s hospitality talent, beginning with the Grape to Glass module, designed for wine service specialists.

“Yes, of course the hospitality industry has taken a massive knock from Covid-19 but using the tools available to us and going online, we can transfer important information and continue to introduce candidates to some of South Africa’s leading winemakers and distillers,” said Chania Morritt-Smith of Showcook.com, that has been running the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge since 2013. “And the beauty of the new approach is that candidates can return repeatedly to the learning content that was previously delivered in a once-off live lecture format.

“We are thrilled to be able to upskill our 2020 wine steward candidates, each of them representing a top South African hotel matched with a premium Distell wine and spirit brand.

In total, there are 20 competing teams, with most including a wine steward, chef and assistant, pastry chef, baker, concierge and barista, as well as their mentors (where applicable).

In previous years, the selected wine steward candidates travelled to the Cape Winelands to cement their wine and spirits knowledge by meeting distillers and winemakers of the participating Distell liquor brands and undergo learning sessions, tastings and examinations.

“The knowledge will continue to grow. We’re extending it digitally, communicating centuries of wine and spirit, tradition, erudition and appreciation to new generations and new communities, always underpinning content with very clear messaging about responsible consumption,” Morritt-Smith explained.

Candidates are being trained online by Harry Melck, principal of the Cape Wine Academy (CWA) and Jean-Vincent Ridon, head of the Sommeliers Academy, via online platform Zoom, with exams that follow. Once the wine stewards have qualified, they all receive prestigious Distell Inter Hotel Challenge pins.

Some of Distell’s top-line distillers and winemakers are also involved in the skills transfer. They include Allesverloren winemaker Wilhelm de Vries, Pongrácz winemaker Andiswa Mapheleba, Durbanville Hills cellar-master Martin Moore, Nederburg managing director Niël Groenewald, Bain’s and Three Ships master distiller Andy Watts, Plaisir de Merle winemaker Niel Bester, Van Ryn’s master distiller Marlene Bester, Fleur du Cap winemaker Pieter Badenhorst and Zonnebloem red winemaker Bonny van Niekerk.

The next phase in the digital learning process will be the ‘Skills Exchange Development Programme’ also delivered on Zoom, later this year.

All webinars streamed live will be recorded and made available to candidates.

Morritt-Smith also said that the organisers would be closely monitoring any changes to current lockdown conditions. These developments would determine the format for judging and prize giving.

Overall, awards are being given for: ‘Wine Steward of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Most Up & Coming Wine Steward of the Year’, ‘Chef of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Pastry Chef of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Most Promising Chef of the Year’, ‘Team & GM of the Year’, ‘Top 3 Cocktails’, ‘Mentor of the Year’, ‘KitchenAid Africa Best Bio-Wheat Baker of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Best Barista of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Top 3 Concierges of the Year’, ‘ScanPan Excellent Kitchen Practice’, ‘Denny Most Delectable Starter’, ‘SA Pork Purple Ribbon Award Main Course’, and ‘Lancewood Best Dessert’.

Richard Rushton, the Distell’s chief executive officer (CEO) added: “It is an honour for Distell to be the headline sponsor of the Inter Hotel Challenge for the eighth year running.  Our long-standing involvement is a clear demonstration of our commitment to South Africa’s hospitality and to skills development and transfer. We are enormously excited by the potential of our country’s young chefs, sommeliers and wine stewards and look forward to their contribution to this vitally important sector.

“What makes the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge such an important and progressive platform is the way it actively encourages the pooling of talent, skill and resources for greater impact, something that’s needed now more than ever before.”

The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge 2020 teams:

KWAZULU-NATAL:

PROTEA HOTEL BY MARRIOTT DURBAN EDWARD (DURBANVILLE HILLS & BAIN’S)

WINE STEWARD: Sakhile Ngubane
BARISTA: Zuke Nduduzo
CHEF: George Mohlala, assisted by Gorman Bongumusa Nthangase
PASTRY CHEF: Thembeka Portia Mzobe
BAKER: Thobeka Sanele Zulu

DURBAN INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE (PONGRÁCZ & CRUZ)

WINE STEWARD: Sithembile Angel Khuzwayo
CHEF: Siphiwe Ngcobo assisted by Mfundo Gcwensa
PASTRY CHEF: Sindi Mbili
BAKER: Malusi Hlangu

SOUTHERN SUN ELANGENI & MAHARANI (NEDERBURG & SCOTTISH LEADER)

WINE STEWARD & BARISTA: Justice Nhlakanipho Zondo
CHEF: Asanda Khanyile
PASTRY CHEF: Alka Gyanda
BAKER: Nokwazi Gigaba

SUNCOAST HOTEL & TOWERS (FLEUR DU CAP & THREE SHIPS)

WINE STEWARD: Happiness Vilane
BARISTA: Sikhumbuzo Sithole
CHEF: Monique Dunn assisted by Manfred Mkhonza
PASTRY CHEF: Nikita Nagasur
BAKER: Sheldon Ramdhanee

BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL (TSOGO SUN) (ALLESVERLOREN & KLIPDRIFT)

WINE STEWARD: Xolani Mzileni
BARISTA: Lungile Ignatia Mkhize
CHEF: Ivanna Ganesh
PASTRY CHEF: Sohail Seegobin
BAKER: Ntsiki Msweli

GAUTENG:

PROTEA HOTEL BY MARRIOTT JOHANNESBURG BALALAIKA SANDTON (DURBANVILLE HILLS & SCOTTISH LEADER)

WINE STEWARD: Sinead Sinclair
BARISTA: Vivian Sigiwji
CHEF: Andriano Uys
PASTRY CHEF: Percy Leso
CONCIERGE: Lawrence Magedane

THE PALACE OF THE LOST CITY – SUN CITY RESORT (NEDERBURG & THREE SHIPS)

WINE STEWARD: to be confirmed
CHEF: Thabang Moloedi assisted by Grace Gouwe
PASTRY CHEF: Dineo Mathabathe
BAKER: Caterine Kgosimore

REUBEN’S AT THE IVY VILLA HOTEL & SPA (ZONNEBLOEM & BAIN’S)

WINE STEWARD: Rutendo Marovatsanga
CHEF: Tyrese Charmaine Slade
PASTRY CHEF: to be confirmed

TSOGO SUN GAUTENG TEAM: INTERCONTINENTAL JOHANNESBURG OR TAMBO, THE PALAZZO, 54 ON BATH (CRUZ MANHATTAN BLOSSOM)

WINE STEWARD: Sandile Mavuso (mentor: Yoshan Naidu)
BARISTA: Kabelo Mokgale (mentor: Gareth Jordaan and Ainsley Williams)
CHEF: Sihle Dlamini (mentors: Yoshan Naidu and Matthew Foxon)
ASSISTANT CHEF: Senzo Mlambo (mentor: Yoshan Naidu)
PASTRY CHEF: Boyboy Jerry Magae (mentor: Gareth Jordaan)
BAKER: Shaughan Lacey (mentor: Matthew Foxon)
CONCIERGE Kagisho Ditira (mentor: Deon Prinsloo)

DE HOEK COUNTRY HOTEL (PONGRÁCZ & GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN)

WINE STEWARD: Victor Mofokeng
CHEF: Angeline Mthembu
PASTRY CHEF: Girly Agnes Nyoni

SUN TIME SQUARE (SUN INTERNATIONAL) (PLAISIR DE MERLE & VAN RYN’S)

WINE STEWARD: Peter John
BARISTA: Phemelo Modisane
CHEF: Basi Sebolai assisted by Kabelo Molefe
PASTRY CHEF: Olga Kobo
BAKER: Robert Clayton Philander

WESTERN CAPE:

THE TWELVE APOSTLES HOTEL & SPA (BAIN’S)

WINE STEWARD Mmeli Ngamlana
BARISTA: to be confirmed
CHEF: Nicole Theunissen
PASTRY CHEF: Ryan Cupido
BAKER: Prince Umera

THE LIZ McGRATH COLLECTION (PONGRÁCZ & CRUZ VODKA)

WINE STEWARD: Akhona Koti
BARISTA: Sakhumzi Mtwecu
CHEF: Sphamandla Nyakambi assisted by Zimasa Raqa
PASTRY CHEF: Kristin Terisita Reagon

BELMOND MOUNT NELSON HOTEL (NEDERBURG & THREE SHIPS)

WINE STEWARD: Keegan Terry
BARISTA: to be confirmed
CHEF: Janice Donavan Saka
PASTRY CHEF: Azriel Coleman
BAKER: Andisiwe Mtsolo

THE VINEYARD HOTEL & SPA (FLEUR DU CAP & VAN RYN’S)

WINE STEWARD: Grant Lodewyks (Square restaurant)
BARISTA: Ndumiso Qolintaba (Long Café)
CHEF: Brandon Erasmus assisted by Suleiman Issacs (Myoga restaurant)
PASTRY CHEF: Bianca de Andrade (The Vineyard main kitchen)
BAKER Chadwin Simmers (The Vineyard bakery)
CONCIERGE: Michelle Tommy

TAJ CAPE TOWN (DURBANVILLE HILLS & SCOTTISH LEADER)

WINE STEWARD: Devika Giga
BARISTA: Margaret Shakatwa
CHEF: Matthew Oliphant
PASTRY CHEF: Chekay Small
CONCIERGE: Charné Davids

NH THE LORD CHARLES HOTEL (ALLESVERLOREN & BAIN’S)

WINE STEWARD: Danielle Fourie
BARISTA: Verginie Lendor
CHEF: Akram Apollis assisted by Clinton Haas
PASTRY CHEF & BAKER: Ferdinand October

THE PRESIDENT HOTEL (DURBANVILLE HILLS & CRUZ VODKA)

WINE STEWARD: Ayabonga Makupula
BARISTA: Cedrick Thabo Sibi
CHEF: Ashley Marehwa
PASTRY CHEF & BAKER: Palesa Klaasen
CONCIERGE: Michael Chihwai & Evander Blair Mbindwane

THE TABLE BAY HOTEL (SUN INTERNATIONAL) (ZONNEBLOEM & GORDON’S LONDON DRY GIN)

WINE STEWARD: Amanda Moyakhe
CHEF: Amy Maria
PASTRY CHEF: Lwando Manando
CONCIERGE: Chelsea Jephthah

LANZERAC HOTEL & SPA (ALLESVERLOREN & THREE SHIPS)

WINE STEWARD: Linda Siya
BARISTA: Roundy Dwaze
CHEF: Amber van Reenen assisted by Thandiswa Watha
PASTRY CHEF: Anna Baker (mentor: Werner Steyn)
BAKER: Gracian Scheepers
CONCIERGE: Anel Rust

The judges:

  • Regional food judges: Heinz Brunner, Marieta Human and Fatima Stanley (KZN), Dorah Sitole (JHB), Brian McCune (CT), Hugh von Zahn (KZN), Jac Kolver (CPT) and Lorraine Meaney (CPT)
  • Wine & spirit service presentation judges: Sandy Harper & Jean-Vincent Ridon (CT)
  • Regional wine and food pairing judges: Kristina Beuthner, Tinashe Nyamudoka (JHB), Karen Bloom (KZN), Ndaba Dube and Aubrey Ngcungama (CT)
  • Concierge judge: Horst Frehse and South African Tourism.
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