There are promising, new green shoots of confidence emerging in the hospitality industry, believes Eric Leong Son, Distell’s acting director of corporate affairs.
Speaking at the launch of the 2022 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge, now in its tenth year, he said: “Despite the pandemic aftershocks, the impact of rising inflation and fuel price increases, the hospitality industry is more optimistic than it has been in a long time. This is borne out by the 39% increase in the number of establishments competing in this year’s challenge, compared with 2021. It suggests a greater commitment to upskilling staff, that in turn points to new job opportunities in what is otherwise a very depressed labour market.”
When the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge was founded in 2013, its initial intention was to build and enhance food preparation and service, as well as wine service skills. It has since expanded its scope to focus on baking, barista, mixology, and concierge services as well.
Leong Son said the challenge was so focused on raising skills levels that competitors were urged to attend in-depth presentations by experts in their fields. These presentations were currently under way in Cape Town, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal. Those making it into the finals, he said, would have the opportunity to attend further advanced presentations in preparation for the final round of the challenge, called the cook-off and service presentations, scheduled for October.
“There is a growing recognition from the industry that sharpening hospitality skills is merely the first step in managing an increasingly competitive environment. The sector not only faces robust competition from within its own ranks locally but also nationally and internationally. However, that is only part of the equation. There are increasing claims on consumers’ leisure attention from streaming services and food and drinks home service delivery facilities to e-sports, DIY travel, home improvements and more.
Guests expect excellent food, drinks, and accommodation, supported by world-class skills. They also want genuine empathy and kindness from staff. Consider these as must-haves rather than nice-to-haves if you want to compete effectively. Moreover, talented staff will look for better opportunities if they are not given the chance to expand their horizons where they are right now. Investing in their growth can engender loyalty, and they in turn can help to train newcomers.”
Food doyenne Annette Kesler, co-founder of the competition, said the provision of best-practice training and very generous prizes were important motivators to hospitality management and their competing staff.
She confirmed that the prize for the top-performing wine stewards of the past three years, still to be taken up, included a tour of wine regions in France accompanied by food and wine expert Jean Vincent Ridon. The 2021 winner, Sylvain Kapompa, of Bantry Bay’s Ellerman House and the 2019 winner, Lovejoy Neshamba, also of Ellerman House, will travel in 2023 while the 2020 winner, Keegan Terry of the Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town, visited top-growth wine estates and meeting wine personalities in October this year, competing for Team South Africa in the 2022 World Blind Tasting Championship. He also interned at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons with Raymond Blanc in Oxfordshire.
Their prizes have also included bursaries for more intensive Sommeliers Academy and Cape Wine Academy study.
The 2021 Chef of the Year, Asanda Khanyile of the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani in Durban, would spend three-weeks interning with Minor Hotels. Meanwhile, the 2020 Chef of the Year, Ivanna Ganesh, will be travelling to India in October where she’ll gain valuable work experience at the TAJ Mahal Palace in Mumbai.
The 2021 Pastry Chef of the Year, Prenolin Naidoo from the Beverly Hills in Durban, will spend three weeks interning in France at the Château La Creuzette in Boussac in 2023, with flights sponsored by Lancewood.
She added that the 2022 winners (to be announced at a gala ceremony on 1 December) in these three categories would earn very similar prizes. For example the top-performing wine steward of 2022 could look forward to a 10-day internship in Ireland at the celebrated The Lodge at Ashford Castle, with the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, and with flights sponsored by Distell.
“These are exceptional opportunities for anyone wanting to accelerate their hospitality careers.”
Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Regional Orientation Workshops & Launches…
At TAJ Hotel Cape Town
The regional “Out to Lunch” Launches are where we were introduced to the Candidates from 25 of our top hotels, this year hosted by The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa on Friday 22nd July in Cape Town, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani on Wednesday 3rd August in Durban and Sun Time Square on Saturday 6th August in Gauteng.
BEVERLY HILLS, DE HOEK COUNTRY HOTEL, DURBAN INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE, ELLERMAN HOUSE, GRANDE ROCHE HOTEL, IVORY MANOR BOUTIQUE HOTEL, JOHANNESBURG MARRIOTT HOTEL MELROSE ARCH, LANZERAC HOTEL & SPA, MOUNT NELSON A BELMOND HOTEL CAPE TOWN, THE OYSTER BOX, QUEEN VICTORIA HOTEL & MANOR HOUSE WATERFRONT, SOUTHERN SUN ELANGENI & MAHARANI, SOUTHERN SUN GAUTENG TEAM, SOUTHERN SUN THE EDWARD, SOUTHERN SUN WESTERN CAPE TEAMS, SUN CITY RESORT, SUN TIME SQUARE, TAJ CAPE TOWN, THE PRESIDENT HOTEL, THE ROCKEFELLER HOTEL, THE VINEYARD, TWELVE APOSTLES HOTEL & SPA, VOCO™ | JOHANNESBURG ROSEBANK |PROUD MARY
Out to Lunch at Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani
Out to Lunch at Time Square, Sun International
To review what lies at the heart of the Challenge this remains unchanged: We are about highlighting the vital role of mentorship for the men and women who are core to the South African hospitality industry and as we know tourism is of the utmost importance to South Africa.
January to July 2022 has seen significant improvements from inbound travel generally.
“At long last, the travel drought appears to have abated,” says Mike Waller, CEO Dragonfly Africa. “We are excited to have already operated more than 15 incentive travel trips for international clients, since the beginning of March. Similarly with leisure travel, we have had families and couples from as far afield as Mexico and the US west coast, lapping up the adventure, wine and cuisine our fabulous value for money destination has to offer. Whilst marketing abroad we have been surprised by the level of preparedness (or rather lack of), to be experienced in some first world destinations. South Africa by contrast, is braced, ready and enthusiastic about getting back to business. While we are in some instances, struggling to find group space at lodges in for example the Sabi Sands, it is an excellent opportunity to broaden our offering to include the many other fabulous lesser-known safari options.”
Without programs such as the Challenge our hotel industry would not be able to sustain the high standards by which we are known. To ensure this with are grateful to have the support and shared vision of our partners who understand that it is vital to continue to educate and train to further skills and importantly meet the needs to take next steps in an industry that is rapidly changing.
Suppliers of superb ingredients throughout the competition; Acqua Panna, Amarula, Avanti Coffee, Bio-Wheat, JC Le Roux, LemonGold®, Denny Mushrooms, Durbanville Hills, Certified Karoo Lamb, Lancewood, Lurpak Butter, Nederburg, Pongrácz, Rio Largo Olive Oil, Senqu River Pistachios,S.Pellegrino, Sanpellegrino Italian Sparkling Drinks, Three Ships Whisky, and Van Ryn’s Brandy
See GRAPE TO GLASS on Showcook where in-depth workshops and access to online courses from the Cape Wine Academy (celebrating 43 years in SA) and the Sommeliers Academy Wine Ambassador Course provided by Distell in each of the regions have been completed. Teams have been introduced to guest speakers from the cream of Distell’s spirit ambassadors from the James Sedgwick Distillery and Van Ryn’s Distillery, met award-winning winemakers and cellar masters from Nederburg, Durbanville Hills, Pongrácz, andJC Le Roux forging new relationships and networks leading up to the regional final Cook-Offs and Service Presentation which took place in October!
Cape Town over two days, Friday 14th October & Saturday 15th October 2022 at Capsicum Culinary Studio. Gauteng hotels on Monday 17th October 2022 at Capsicum Culinary Studio and Durban on Wednesday 19th October 2022 International Hotel School. Follow #Distell #InterHotelChallenge2022 #Showcook
The winners will be announced at a glittering gala dinner on Thursday 1st December at The President Hotel – a very special evening indeed!
Wine and spirit service: Sandy Harper and Jean-Vincent Ridon
Wine and food pairing: Aubrey Ngcungama, Marlvin Gwese, Germain Lehodey, Kristina Beuthner, Karen Bloom and Mark O’Flaherty
Food: Hugh von Zahn, Jane-Therese Mulry, Mariëtte Crafford, John de Canha and Brad Kavanagh
Kitchen skills: Julietta e Silva Overmeyer, Candice Adams, Ukhonaye Mconi, Chanelle Boucher and Larissa Pillay
Barista: Caroline Ncube, Paula Visser, Tarryn van der Toorn, Robert Shazi, Wayne Abrahams, Roan Muntingh, Rocky Jacobs, Oz Davids and Ree Moya
Most Up & Coming Wine Steward ‘THE WONGA AWARD’: Manduleli Solani with Mentor Keegan Terry (2020), Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town https://youtu.be/u7ahpWMozkU
See… Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Wine Steward of the Year 2021,
Sylvain Kapompa, Ellerman House https://youtu.be/CwWmBBDOnRc
Don’t miss BLIND AMBITION with Tinashe Nyamudoka (2013 winning Wine Steward) and Marlvin Gwese (2013 & 2014 Candidate, Food & Wine Pairing Judge for Reaching for Young Stars since 2019 and for this year’s Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge) and our Wine Steward Judge Jean Vincent Ridon!
The Challenge, established in 2013, develops and promotes skills in wining and dining service as well as in cuisine. Contestants are exposed to specialist skills provided by the Cape Wine Academy, the Sommelier Academy, mixologists, top chefs and bakers, baristas and concierges.
Apart from the training the candidates receive during their participation in the Challenge, the contest also provides major category prize winners with the opportunity to travel abroad for several weeks. There they work alongside world-renowned members in their field, from sommeliers and distillers to patisserie chefs and members of management at leading hotels.
The intention of the challenge is to build specialist skills across the hospitality industry while exposing winners to international best-in-class practice in their area of expertise. These are absolutely foundational steps in advancing greater inclusivity in our tourism sector.
Over the years winners have been invited to Long Beach Mauritius (2013), Taj Mahal Palace India (2014), the Shangri-La in Dubai (2015), The Alcron in Prague (2016), The Marriott Ritz-Carlton Hotel and JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai (2017), NH Collection Barbizon Palace hotel, D’Vijff Vlieghen and Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky (2018), Minor Hotels in Bangkok; at Anantara Riverside Bangkok Hotel, Anantara Sathorn Bangkok Hotel and Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotels (2019) and Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai with Taj Hotels (2020)
Ashleigh Christie of Minor Hotels will announce the destination for the 2021 Chef of the Year, Asanda Khanyile, representing the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani to travel in 2023. Flights sponsored by Distell. (https://youtu.be/msVjMpUNQCY).
Wine Stewards have worked alongside the award-winning sommelier team at London’s famous 67 Pall Mall Club, Red Carnation’s exquisite Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant in Evershot, Dorset, experienced educational visits to top-ranked whisky distilleries Bunnahabhain and Deanston in Scotland, as well as to Bordeaux’s La Cité du Vin (City of Wine) museum in France.