DISTELL INTER HOTEL CHALLENGE WINE STEWARDS

Future Sommeliers! An achievement to aspire to, well worth climbing up that ladder and here they are…

EMILE LIEBENBERG
The Liz McGrath Collection

“I work in the Greenhouse restaurant in the front of house department at The Cellars-Hohenort hotel” says Emile Liebenberg

“I officially started in March 2018 as a runner, I’m currently Head Waiter. My key responsibilities are to ensure that service is running smoothly and that all the guests are happy. I started my training at Greenhouse with no prior experience. I have learned all I know about the industry from working here. I am a team leader and consider one of my strengths to identify issues and come up with appropriate solutions. I love working with my team and seeing people happy, that makes my work satisfying.

My greatest achievement at work is becoming Head Waiter in the short time frame, and I have my eye on becoming Restaurant Supervisor. I would like to achieve that qualification within two years and follow on in the next five years by becoming a Restaurant Manager. I would love to travel to England, to experience the culture, the weather (I prefer the cold) and appreciate the design of the buildings. 
In my spare time, I work on my computer – I am a computer enthusiast and if I won the lottery, I would resign and study!” 

KEEGAN TERRY
Belmond Mount Nelson

By participating in the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge, Keegan Terry hopes to further his skills and knowledge of South African wines and in-turn take this back to his guests in the hopes of promoting South African wines at an international level.

Keegan is a Food and Beverage Supervisor who works at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, where he is the main liaison between all Food and Beverage outlets within Belmond Mount Nelson’s Planet Bar and ensures the smooth running of his department.

Keegan believes that the wine industry is an integral feature within the Food and Beverage field, and he has developed a growing passion and insight into wine stewarding.

Working within the hotel, Keegan has had the amazing opportunity to work with and be exposed to the best wines South Africa has to offer and aspires to further his skills to become a sommelier who specializes in promoting South African wines to international guests as he has noticed through his experience, that they are not often exposed to the amazing range of wines produced in South Africa.  

In Keegan’s free time he not only keeps up to date with the local wine releases and developments but he also visits local vineyards and reads up on all the latest trends coming from the field.

XOLANI MZILENI
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.”

LUYANDA BUSHULA
The President Hotel 

“My name is Luyanda Bushula. I’m currently a waitron at the President Hotel. My journey in the hospitality industry began later in 2015. When I started in this industry, I never thought I’d be the salesman that I am today, but I remember vividly when I started working at Moyo restaurant (uShaka Marine) after I dropped out from Durban University of Technology. In my first week as a runner I used to carry a tray with two hands and my level of self-confidence was at its lowest because of my lack of knowledge of how things worked. My strength in being a fast learner worked to my advantage as I constantly made notes on food and beverage during staff briefings before our shifts started. We were required to know all courses and pair them with suitable drinks. The more I read and gained knowledge my level of my confidence sky rocketed and I could carry a tray with one hand with confidence and a clear knowledge of what was expected. 

In 2016, July 31st due to my high performance and knowledge, I was transferred to Moyo (Kirstenbosch) where I met new colleagues and my knowledge growth increased. 

2017 I took on a new challenge. I joined the CTICC through an agency and during that time we did everything. I can confidently say that is where I learnt more in-depth knowledge on wines. My knowledge started with the basics; how to open a bottle of wine and serve it properly. This was one of the requirements for wine stewards allocated to the fine dining section. I got to experience working behind the bar and create amazing cocktails.

I enjoy a challenge and learning through it. I got an opportunity for the first time in my life to work at a hotel, Radisson Blu Waterfront in Granger Bay. This was a short period, learnt a lot about myself and how important it is to find the best environment for my abilities. From there I joined the newly opened Blaauwberg Beach Hotel. My skills and aptitude helped me be a key player as we launched the restaurant and department. My experience and knowledge helped and I learnt a lot on opening a hotel. I am grateful to have met Ndaba Dube. His respect and depth of wine knowledge and barman background motivated me to see value in this journey for my future in hospitality.

NHLAKANIPHO JUSTICE ZONDO
Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani 

“Start your day with coffee, end your day with wine,” says Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo. Dedicated to the discipline, art and love of fine beverages, Nhlakanipho, is putting his best foot forward discovering the joy and energy of coffee and wine.

The 27-year-old, from Cato Manor in Durban, is determined to expand his knowledge of South African and international wines in terms of region, viticulture and vinification, as well as basic knowledge of beers, ciders, spirits, water, coffee and tea.

“I am absolutely loving my journey in this industry where I get to explore this new world that I was once totally unfamiliar with. It has given me the opportunity to turn passion into a career,” says Zondo. Raised in Port Shepstone in KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast, Zondo relocated to Durban to pursue a short training course as a waitron at Starline Training Centre in Durban. He was then employed at several top Durban restaurants before landing a job at Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel.

“I started off as a casual waiter during the December holidays in 2018. I worked hard, showed dedication and commitment and two months later was offered a full-time waitron position at Vigour & Verve Maharani and Grill Jichana restaurants,” he said. Zondo was then exposed to the intricacies of wine as well as the art of coffee making.

“The hospitality industry has opened my eyes to a great variety of options and possibilities. I was always intrigued as there was so much on offer. My journey began by learning the basics of wine,” he explained. Zondo has since not looked back. As time went by, his knowledge grew, as he assisted more and more guests make informed beverage choices.

“Dining is an experience and wine adds lustre to that experience, enhancing flavours if it is paired well. It gives me the greatest pleasure in helping guests have the best dining experience.” Zondo says it took him about a year to understand the basics of wine adding that he continues to learn every day.

As a barista, Zondo spent nine months mastering the perfect cup of coffee. “It takes patience, the best coffee bean and love to create the perfect cup. I challenge myself each day and maintain that drinking a cup of coffee can be likened to drinking a work of art,” says Nhlakanipho.

LINDOKUHLE SIYO
Lanzerac Hotel & Spa

Lindokuhle Siyo began her career with Allée Bleue and is currently a member of the South African Sommelier Association. She is a focused and determined team member, dedicating her days to completing all her tasks and duties.  Linda is an enthusiastic individual, always seeking to learn new things and who strives to be the best person she can be. She would describe herself as an outgoing person who gets on well with everyone. Her favourite pass time is cooking and savouring delicious dishes.

PETER JOHN
Sun Time Square

“My passion was ignited in 2013 when I was a restaurant waiter,” says Peter John. “Initially, it was just to keep me busy, however, I soon realised that I could make a living and grow within the industry, plus it could take me places! One of the reasons that added to this passion is because I fell in love with what I do, so I do it with all my heart and soul if I’m to say.

Out of work, I spend most of my time indoors educating myself with all the info I might need about the hospitality industry, always upping my game to be on top as I try to learn on a daily basis, and improve the service with my team.

I am currently employed with Sun International as a Food & Beverage Supervisor, my portfolio includes banqueting in the Hotel and F&B in the Arena. Sharing the best memories with clients is what I do best and I will never lose my passion for this industry.”

SITHEMBILE ANGEL KHUZWAYO
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,” says Sithembile Angel Khuzwayo. “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.”

SINEAD SINCLAIR
Formally of

Protea Hotel by Marriott® Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton

“I love being around people and seeing them smile,” says Sinead Sinclair. “This is probably why I find myself in the industry of customer service and hospitality. 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 the University of the People, completing my 2nd year, correspondence for my Bachelor of Business Administration Degree.”

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.

FORTUNE JOSEPH SITHOLE
Formally of
Protea Hotel by Marriott® Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton

“I am an all-rounder waiter, familiar with the day to day challenges of a restaurateur’s life, handling pressure and able to assist in all areas – Griller, Soft–serve, Waiter, Host, Floor Supervisor, Management F&B and have attended quite a number of in-house training modules to management levels, including Silver Service, Whisky & Cigar, Wine & Beer, Wine & Food Pairing and Superior Service Training. In the quest for knowledge, I have equipped myself over the years with certificates in – Oprah, Fidelio 4.6, Landmark, CLS, Galileo, Reservations procedures, Front Office Operations, and Sales Consultancy,” says Fortune Joseph Sithole.

“I’m a self-driven, competent young lad who is willing to be given a stage to showcase my abilities while possessing a keenness to learn new things and advance my career within the hospitality industry. “

EID DUBE
De Hoek Country Hotel

“My name is Eid Dube. I work in the Bar and Service department of De Hoek Country Hotel in Magaliesberg. I started in 2006 as a Barista, I am now Head Barman. My key responsibilities are to look after our guests and count stock levels. I’ve been working in the hospitality industry for 14 years, having begun my journey at De Hoek.

My biggest strengths are communication and understanding. I love my job, interacting with our guests about talking about our wines. I’m a go-getter and full of life and in my spare time, I research my wine journey. I would like to become a Junior Sommelier and I would like to achieve that goal in three years. In years to come, I would like to become a fully-fledged Sommelier for a group of hotels. I would love to travel to France and Italy. If I won the lottery I would share it with the homeless shelters for abused kids.”

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