DISTELL INTER HOTEL CHALLENGE HOT CHEFS!

If your preference is for the hot kitchen you are following a grand old tradition. The hot kitchen holds many challenges and for those that persevere holds many rewards. Not an easy path, but one that has great scope for creativity in multiple ways.

You will, of course, be called upon from time to time to cater for huge numbers of people which in itself calls for remarkable skills or you may be invited to prepare something exquisite that demands great finesse. Eventually, you will not only be cooking but will be managing and finally directing in this position you will need to hone your ability in kitchen management and best business practice. All in all, a demanding, inspirational, and satisfying career for a lifetime.

AMBER VAN REENEN
Lanzerac Hotel & Spa

Amber van Reenen started as a senior facilitator at Rocklands Centre in Simons Town, where she trained young people in bettering themselves. It wasn’t long before she discovered her passion for food, when studying at the International Hotel School. After her training period at Lanzerac, she was fortunate to join the team as a Demi-Chef de Partie. 

Her typical day starts with a cup of coffee before monitoring the breakfast, checking, and re-prepping the à la carte and cold buffet dishes. She will assist with functions, training the trainees, and running the lunch and/or dinner service.

Amber is a hard worker with a positive outlook on life. She loves to interact with her teammates and guests and enjoys the rush of a busy service. Her colleagues describe her as a strong leader who does not take short cuts, and someone they can count on.

When not in the kitchen, she is the happiest being outdoors in nature, trying new restaurants, watching movies with her better half, or playing boardgames with her family.

ANGELINE MTHEMBU
De Hoek Country Hotel 

Angeline Mthembu has been working at De Hoek Country Hotel for the past 15 years. She initially started as a sculler, and after day one was offered the opportunity to train as a chef. Her sous chef at the time, Chef Micheal Holenstein trained her and she says she enjoyed every moment quite thoroughly. Angeline describes herself as curious and says as she learned each section of the kitchen she continuously asked many questions. She worked long hours with energy provided by the enthusiasm she had for the kitchen. After being a commis chef, she worked in the cold kitchen and has since been in the pastry section. She is responsible for making chocolate truffles, wedding cakes, and other occasional cakes, as well as the plated desserts. She has worked with Chef Jacques Swart, Chef Ramon Gouws, and now Chef Alessandro Buzzi. She has participated in the Distell Challenge Competition twice and is in love with learning from and teaching fellow chefs.

ASHLEY MAREHWA
The President Hotel, Cape Town

Ashley Marehwa, otherwise known as ‘Ash’, age 21, born and raised in Zimbabwe, came to South Africa in 2016 to pursue his studies in Culinary Arts.  He went to Sense of Taste Chefs School and graduated with a Level 2 Diploma.

Driven by his passion for food, he worked at Ash Restaurant (now known as Riverine Rabbit), whilst doing part-time at Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants. He also worked at Tjing Tjing Restaurant. 

To date, the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge will be the biggest platform he’s competed on and is proud to be selected to compete at this level. He is really looking forward to resuming to take on the challenge and having fun whilst doing it.

BASI SEBOLAI
Sun Time Square

“My full name is Basi Otsile Ashley Wellington Sebolai, born on 27th June 1995 in North Pretoria.”

“Food is my joy,” says Basi. “I love the alchemy of it all, and along with the air that I breathe, my family and food have been that one constant that brings me ‘that Friday feeling’ every day. 

I entered the competition firstly for my own development as a chef but mostly, this is the perfect opportunity to slow dance with food, in our everyday hustle and bustle, we seldom get the chance to appreciate ingredients like mushrooms, olive oil, or pork, but this is my chance to slow it all down, think critically and deliver dishes that I have put my personal stamp on.”

IVANNA GANESH
Beverly Hills Hotel

Life in the Kitchen…

Meet Chef Ivanna Ganesh, one of the most promising young chefs the Beverly Hills has to offer. Ivanna is 23 years old and started cooking from the age of seven, her best part of her childhood was cooking with her mother in Phoenix.

Ivanna started her professional cooking career in 2016, after completing a diploma in Culinary Arts at Life Preparation.

Ivanna trained at the prestigious Beverly Hills Hotel, then went on to work with world-class chefs at The Chef’s Table in the beautiful Umhlanga precinct and The Square Boutique Hotel, she then returned home to the Beverly Hills where she has made a very memorable mark to date. Ivanna enjoys cooking pasta and loves to bake. Her role model is the infamous Marco Pierre White. Ivanna’s passion is fine dining and nouvelle cuisine, she has shown amazing attention to detail when plating and creating dishes.

Ivanna’s Kitchen Motto: Kitchens are hard environments and they form incredibly strong characters.

MATHEW OLPIHANT
TAJ Cape Town

“My name is Mathew Oliphant, I’m 25 years old. I attended school at Rocklands Secondary and left in 2011 due to learning disabilities then I had to attend a special school in my area in Mitchell’s Plain, School of Skills. I started cooking at a young age, already as I grew older cooking become a passion. There were many different types of workshops for the learners but food studies caught my eye and my two mentors; Xenophone de Jongh and Darryl Young taught me the basics and cooking techniques. I graduated in 2015 and in the same year I started my in-service training at Southern Sun Cape Sun for six months with the then Executive Chef Alfred Henry. I stayed on through the school holidays and gained a lot of hotel experience. When my six months was completed I went to the Cape Town International Convention Centre and worked there for four months, after that I went to the Southern Sun The Cullinan for a year then onto the Southern Sun Waterfront. In 2016 I was offered a position at TAJ Cape Town and have been working there ever since.

In my spare time, I play football for El Shaddai FC. I also played softball during the summer and got the opportunity to represent Western Cape in a tournament in Pretoria where I was named player of the tournament.”

MFUNDO GCWENSA
Durban ICC  

“I’ve been in the culinary industry for the past five years,” says Mfundo Gcwensa. I started college at DUT studying hospitality and graduated in 2015 with a Diploma in hospitality. My first job was at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel in 2015 as a student for six months. I then went to The Hilton hotel as a student for another six months. I started working at the Durban ICC in 2017 as a commis chef and promoted to a demi chef in 2018.

As of 2019, I am a junior chef de partie.  I have worked in the pastry, hot and cold kitchen at the Durban ICC and I am currently in the cold kitchen. I’m an all-rounder chef, comfortable working in any kitchen. 

In my free time, I am a Dj, I go by the name DJ Blasty.” 

RAMEEZ CERES
Belmond Mount Nelson

“My name is Rameez Ceres and have been in the professional food industry for the past seven years at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. I started at the young age of 19, as a commi chef and have worked my way to be a chef de partie at the age of 25. 

I grew up spending most of my time in the kitchen. Whether it was making an omelette for breakfast in the early hours of the morning or whipping up a late-night snack. It was calming, being able to block out the world, while simultaneously being able to express myself, made me have a deeper connection to the kitchen as if I was meant to be there. I recall playing rugby during my entire high school career, yet something as small as the taste of a slice of orange with salt meant more than the game on the field. It was one of the many indications that food and cooking were going to be my future. 

One of the earliest memories I have is my mom putting me in a high chair in the middle of the kitchen and she would prepare different dishes throughout the day. My five-year-old self found it fascinating how a few simple ingredients treated in the correct manner, would create a wholesome family meal. I remember constantly asking her why she would put a huge “leaf” in her food and she would always reply eloquently with the following words that still stay with me: “It blew in from the window, my child.” My mother, along with many other female figures in my family is the reason I have such an attachment to the kitchen.

It is the art of cooking that I long to master. Even though at times, the kitchen can be a test and push one’s limits, it is my dedication that drives me to face another day. I soon learned that discipline and doing better than the day before, is what I chase after. In another light, it allows me to be creative and to think extraordinarily. It motivates me to not always follow the norm and to put a piece of myself, my history, and the basics my mother taught me, in my food. 

Seven years is not a long time in this industry, but the skills I’ve learned cannot be taken away from me. A good colleague of mine always reminded me to never keep the knowledge and art to myself. The younger generation of chefs are the future of our industry and withholding skills and the craft of cuisine, would mean that I have not done the five-year-old boy, watching his mother cook, justice.

SPHAMANDLA NYAKAMBI
The Liz McGrath Collection 

Sphamandla Nyakambi trained at Infinity Culinary Training and started as a commis chef at Greenhouse Restaurant at The Cellars-Hohenort in November 2018. He is currently Demi Chef de Partie.

“I strive for perfection in everything I do, and I love learning new things and teaching others. In addition to being a chef, I would also like to be a Food Photographer and travel to Japan,” says Sphamandla.

How would you describe yourself in one sentence? 
“Fun to be around, always making jokes, active and busy at all times.”

What would you do if you won the lottery? 
“Invest in opening my own school of cooking.”

What do you do in your spare time?
“I love playing games, and also helping my cousin in his small restaurant.

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