Distell Inter Hotel Challenge

2020 is a year that will remain indelibly imprinted on our memories. For the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge, watching the hospitality industry come to a standstill was devastating. Tourism – and the entire hospitality industry – has been harder hit than any other aspect of economic life in this country. For a brief moment, we wondered if the Challenge could even continue. It is a testament to our partners, the hotels, the food producers, the wine and spirit makers… and the tenacity of our candidates and their mentors, we are able to honour the end of a successful 2020 Distell Inter Hotel Challenge. As much as we celebrate the winners, we also salute every single person who stepped up to be part of the Challenge in ways that we could not have conceived or ever hoped for.  

Even the way we announce our winners has come about as a result of having to find ways of continuing our mentorship work, even in the face of a deadly pandemic. Like companies and organisations around the planet, we find ourselves embracing a new virtual world.

In order to make sure that everybody who has either participated or contributed to the Challenge is honoured, we have turned to other channels in real and virtual platforms. It was a crisis that lead to new solutions, and as is often the way with progress, the solutions have left us with a different structure for conducting the Challenge in a way that has excitingly changed how we do things going forward so it is with great pleasure to announce our winners this year. Do see… http://tiny.cc/mkgvtz & http://tiny.cc/okgvtz & wine.co.za https://spotlight.wine.co.za/spotlight.aspx?SPOTLIGHTID=104

The core objectives that lie at the heart of this Challenge, now in its ninth year, remain unchanged. We are about mentorship for the next generation of hospitality giants in South Africa. The young men and women we meet as candidates throughout the Challenges, are the same individuals who go on to become the leading lights in South Africa‘s hospitality industry. Hospitality is the backbone of tourism. Tourism is a core industry of South Africa. Without mentorship programmes like this, and the passionate commitment of the hotels and their management, sommeliers, executive chefs, farmers, food producers and educators across the disciplines, our hotel industry would not be able to sustain the high standards by which we are known around the globe.  

So what of The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge 2021? Importantly, it goes ahead. We have received commitment and support from so many of our partners who share our passion for educating and supporting tomorrow’s hospitality talent. We are dealing with a different world to the one we worked with prior to March 2020. One year later, we have all come to the realisation that living alongside a pandemic such as Covid-19 has forced us to reconsider our methods and find new ways to achieve the objectives of the Challenge while keeping everybody involved safe. However, continue we shall.

South Africa’s youth is in an employment crisis. Currently, more than one out of every two South Africans between the age of 15 and 34 are unemployed, not in school or in any formal educational programme. It is more important than ever before to offer opportunities to young South Africans. This year, the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge is placing even stronger emphasis on facilitating a platform that allows the industry to join forces to change the lives of young talent across the country.

Richard Rushton, Distell’s chief executive officer (CEO) says: “It’s an incredible honour for Distell to be the headline sponsor of the annual Inter-Hotel Challenge for the eighth year running.  Our long-standing involvement is a clear demonstration of our commitment to South Africa’s hospitality sector, and to skills development and transfer. 

“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. Congratulations to the winners. We’re enormously excited by the potential of our country’s young hospitality talent and look forward to their contribution to this vitally important sector.” 

Another committed partner is the SA Pork Producers Organisation. “We have been a part of this incredible initiative for some years now, “commented Johann Kotzé, CEO of the SA Pork Producers Organisation. “When I watch the growth of previous winners of this endeavour, I am struck with the importance of what we are doing. The entire industry, from wine and food producers to the training colleges and the hotels, need to work together to ensure our new talent is nurtured and given the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. We are proud of what the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge accomplishes every year and even prouder to be part of it.”

Exposure to the international hospitality industry is an important ingredient to the Challenge as the top candidates in the chef, pastry and wine steward categories are flown overseas for in-depth work experience with some of the most famous names and celebrated hotels and clubs in the world. Chef of the Year 2019 was flown by the Minor Hotels, to Bangkok for an extraordinary mentorship experience.

“The future of our industry depends on all the, still to be discovered talent, who are just waiting for the opportunity to spread their wings and shine. This incredible platform that Showcook has so passionately kept alive is just what the hospitality industry in South Africa needs and one we should all actively support,” commented Ashleigh Christie, Regional HR Director – Africa Minor Hotels.

The renowned ‘Taj Hotels, Palaces, Resorts & Safaris’ is awarding one of the most impressive of the international prizes this year. They are offering the ‘Distell Inter Hotel Challenge Chef of the Year 2020’ an extraordinary mentorship opportunity in India. The winner will spend three weeks working with top international chefs in three of their top hotels.

“It is important for us that the prize is more than just an international trip. We have put in place a full mentorship learning experience for this year’s winner,” explains Mark Wernich, GM of TAJ Cape Town. “It is important to Taj Group that we play a strong role in ensuring tomorrow’s hospitality talent. The mentoring and learning aspect of the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge plays a strong role in bringing this about and we are delighted to be playing a bigger role this year.”

Much of the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge‘s success can be attributed to the way leaders of the industry across many competing top hotel brands, join forces in a unique pledge to share the responsibility of mentoring rising talent within the South African hospitality industry. One of the important outcomes of the Challenge is this shared camaraderie as individuals and teams who normally see each other as competition, join forces, collaborating and generously sharing their knowledge, skills and foresight.

The emphasis on apprenticeship, nurturing and practice is key to the success, richly rewarded with inspirational and meaningful prizes, superb and generous developmental bursaries from Distell, South African National Youth Development Agency, Cape Wine Academy, Sommeliers Academy, International Hotel School and Didactix.

Annette Kesler and Chania Morritt-Smith, concept creators, managers, organisers and drivers behind South Africa’s only inter hotel mentorship challenge, believe that bringing the wealth of hospitality industry talent we have in this country together will provide a platform for learning, skills exchange, development and ultimately recognition. An inspiring and valuable goal to which their company Showcook.com dedicates itself.

Over the years, the Challenge has drawn in many supportive disciplines akin to the hotel trade and tourism as a whole. One such partner is Canon.

“Being part of the prestigious 2019 Distell Inter Hotel Challenge for the first time has been quite a journey for Canon. We’ve been amazed by the extraordinary culinary talent in our country and privileged to sponsor the participating hotels with a camera to capture the food art. Canon aims to inspire the creative side especially encouraging photographers to capture, store, print and share their life experiences through the universal language of imagery. 

These talented chefs are creative in their own right and as an imaging company, we hope that the #canonchallenge2020 also inspires the teams to enjoy photographing their food as much as creating it! 

The CANON EOS M6 MkII will be awarded to the winning ‘Distell Inter Hotel Challenge Pastry Chef of the Year’ to capture lasting food memories of their win at La Creuzette for many years to come!” Michelle Janse van Vuuren, Corporate & Marketing Communications Manager, Canon South Africa.

“Such moments and initiatives like the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge during this challenging period help us stay resilient as it reminds us of our passion for forging a career in this industry,” says Ndaba Dube, Food & Beverage Ops Manager, The President Hotel. (‘Most Promising Wine Steward’ 2013, 3rd Place Best Wine Steward 2014, Mentor to the ‘Most Up & Coming)

See Reflections…https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXCTyqZGfREfWf-QEk-nnBjTwBS7u_rcB

The categories this year encompassed a wide field including concierges, wine stewards, baristas, bakers, chefs and pastry chefs. The candidates drawn from Belmond Mount Nelson, Beverly Hills, De Hoek Country Hotel, Durban International Convention Centre, Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani, Sun Time Square, TAJ Cape Town, The Lanzerac Hotel & Spa, The Liz McGrath Collection, The President Hotel, Protea Hotel By Marriott® Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton.

A formidable and highly experienced panel of regional and travelling judges were lined up to judge the various categories for the 2020 competition at Capsicum Culinary Studio in Rosebank and Cape Town and at the International Hotel School in Durban. The food judges included Hugh von Zahn, Brian McCune, the late Dorah Sitole, Fatima Stanley, Jac Kolver, Kyle Hickman and Lorraine Meaney. The kitchen evaluation judge, Julietta e Silva. Wine and spirit service presentations by travelling judges Sandy Harper and Jean Vincent Ridon. Regional wine and food pairing judges; Aubrey Ngcungama, Germain Lehodey, Karen Bloom, Kristina Beuthner, Mark O’Flaherty and Marlvin Gwese. Baristas were judged by Alison Douglas, Caroline Ncube, Leah Nabakwe, Paula Visser, Robert Shazi, Tarryn van der Toorn and Wayne Abrahams, and the Concierges by Horst Frehse.

Suppliers of superb local ingredients throughout the competition:
Distell Wines: Allesverloren * Durbanville Hills * Fleur Du Cap * Nederburg * Plaisir de Merle * Pongrácz * Zonnebloem 

Distell Spirits: Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky * Cruz Vodka * Gordon’s London Dry Gin * Scottish Leader Whisky * Three Ships Whisky * Van Ryn’s Brandy * Klipdrift Premium Brandy

S. Pellegrino * Acqua Panna * S. Pellegrino Essenza * SA Pork * Lancewood Cheese * Denny Mushrooms * Lurpak Butter * Rio Largo Olive Oil * Bio-Wheat * Avanti Coffee * Khoisan Sea Salt 

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