The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge focuses on the role of mentorship, the youth and their bright future in the hospitality world. Vital tomorrow’s hospitality industry players meet the needs for Tourism in South Africa.

The President Hotel

“My name is Ayabonga Makupula, I’m a Restaurant & Bar Supervisor at the President Hotel. My love for wines began late after joining the Hospitality Industry, and that itself was quite a journey. 

At first it was all about finding a job after finishing Matric that led me into Hospitality and my very first job was at the Grand West Casino and Entertainment world. For two months I worked in the kitchen as a cleaner and fortunately for me the Banqueting Manager saw potential in me and took me through training to become a waiter and houseman. I conquered that as well and in a few months I was sent to Ciro Coffee Academy to learn how to make cappuccinos, café latte and espresso and by this time I was already working as a part time Barman whenever we had functions. It was then that I discovered the love I have for hospitality, the love of working with people from different backgrounds.

I moved from Grand West and joined Sanlam Head Offices for six months. Unfortunately this was not what I was looking for. I missed the joy of dealing with guests and all the challenges in the pursuit to give excellent service. I missed the rush and getting things done. 

In 2015, I was hired by the President Hotel and my journey began. Every day was marked by something new to learn and this is where I discovered the love for wine. My love for wine went beyond the personal enjoyment of a glass of wine. My confidence grew and I could upsell, recommend, and serve wine correctly. 

The exposure from our Wine & Dine events, on and offsite training, and the biggest game-changer in 2020, joining the Graham Beck farm for harvest. All this has kept my hunger and passion for wine and hospitality on a high. The harvest at Graham Beck taught me a lot about the wine industry and most of all the people behind who do the work. At Graham Beck, I went through the process of harvesting, pressing, racking, and fermentation. This is where I also witnessed and became part of the 2020 bottling and labeling. 

A special thanks to all the individuals who became part of growing my career, looking out, and encouraging me to be at my utmost best. And special thanks to my current mentor and coach, Ndaba Dube. Thank you!” says Ayabonga.

Suncoast Sunsquare
Hotel & Towers

Tenacious and confident are the main traits of Happiness, a veteran with a dynamic passion for service, after several years of freelancing at different hospitality venues.

Happiness signed up at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani with her main responsibilities at the newly renovated Ocean Breeze specializing in cocktail and wine service, she also had several short spells at other venues within the complex such Lingela and Tall Ships where her passion continued to develop. 

Being modest about her wealth of experience Happiness is motivated to keep improving her knowledge for the business and due to her consistency Happiness had been approached to be a part of the opening team at Vigour and Verve at Suncoast Casino. 

A further achievement of being the head waiter title, assisting management ensuring large numbers of casino punters daily is one of her proudest moments to date, in 2016 she opted for a new challenge by joining the team at Jeera, Sunsquare Suncoast, a pivotal member in current operation who is willing to always go beyond the call of duty.

Durban ICC  

“I have a marketing and media techniques background. I hold a marketing qualification from Boston Business College with two years of experience at one of the top agencies, Le Morgan, a direct marketing company.
I have a diploma in Media Techniques, which is an international qualification from City & Guilds.

I started my career in the hospitality industry in 2014 as a technical graduate at the Durban International Conference Centre. In 2017 I was fortunate to be a part of the health and safety division, then promoted to function coordinator. I’m currently a beverage coordinator with experience in different wines and spirits, which has inspired me to pursue the idea of becoming a sommelier,” says Angel.

The Beverly Hills 

“My name is Xolani Mzileni from Empangeni, near Richards Bay, KwaZulu Natal. I work for The Beverly Hills hotel as a waiter at the Sugar Club Restaurant. 

My introduction to the wine industry was back in 2009 under the mentorship of the legendary Thato Goimane planted a huge interest and passion in me. I have been learning and collecting knowledge through the years and I recently participated in the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge in 2018, which was an eye-opener for me and I learned a lot. 

It is a huge honour and a great opportunity to represent one of the biggest hotels again this year which is The Beverly Hills Hotel. 

My vision is to become one of the respected wine Sommeliers of this country and maybe the world. I have hope that this platform will provide me with the needed skills and mindset of a true Sommelier,” says Xolani.

Protea Hotel by Marriott® Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton 

“I love being around people and seeing them smile, this is probably why I find my self in the industry of customer service and hospitality,” shares Sinead.

“I’m eager and a fast learner. I love learning new things and believe we can never be too old to learn. I’m very committed, diligent and determined. I also find myself to be very academically driven. I enjoy being outdoors and active. I face challenges eagerly, as I strongly believe challenges grow and develop us.”

“I’m a young outgoing person, in my early twenties. I am currently a student at University of the People, completing my 2nd year, correspondence for my Bachelor of Business Administration Degree. I work at The Bullrun as a Hostess but working hard to become a manager. 

Why do I believe I would be the perfect person for this opportunity?

When I started my first job in 2016 after I matriculated, I was introduced to sommelier activities and learned about pairing wines. Since then I have been very interested in wines, always eager to learn about wines and the process as a whole starting from the soil of the vineyards, to the pouring and tasting of the wine. It has always fascinated me and captured my attention.

I’m extremely reliable and committed and excited to take on this adventure as a challenge and opportunity for growth and development on the topic. 

I enjoy participating in Wine Tasting experiences and learning about them. For me, this experience would be really amazing in growing my potential and passion within the wine industry of South Africa. I’m eager and excited to see where this journey will take me. It will be thrilling to see how far I make it, I have already come along way. 

Sometimes being a waiter, the knowledge you have is very basic and you almost just open and serve wine that is ordered by the customer. I want to be in a position where I can recommend and share knowledge about specific wines, read a customer, and know exactly what they would like, without disappointing them. I would love to be that person that can be trusted to sell any bottle of wine, to almost any person,” says Sinead.

Formerly of Protea Hotel by Marriott®
Durban Edward 

Sakhile Ngubane is from the Mtubatuba area near St. Lucia, North of Richards Bay. Sakhile is a very attentive person who is always eager to learn and easily absorb concepts. He started working at Spur in 2014 until 2017. 

“My passion for wines and spirits of the world started when I worked at the Brasserie Restaurant for two years,” says Sakhile.

“At the time it was more of coffees not much exposure to wines and spirits, but as a person with ambition to be knowledgeable with everything that I work with. I tried learning about a few wines we had over the internet. The simple way of making the stole my heart, with that I knew the direction I was heading. I then had the privilege of learning about the different coffees, wines, and spirits from a colleague who is also a barman at the Protea Hotel by Marriott® Durban Edward. The training provided made me even hungrier to gain more knowledge about the beverages made of natural ingredients. 

In conclusion, I have decided to embark on a journey to learn more about the industry and all thanks to Protea Hotel by Marriott® Durban Edward.”

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