INTER-HOTEL CHALLENGE, SOUTH AFRICA 2024

South Africa is among the 80 co-sponsoring countries, demonstrating its commitment to promoting sustainable tourism practices. UN Tourism has announced 2027 as the International Year of Sustainable and Resilient Tourism.

At the organization’s headquarters in Madrid, UN Tourism leaders welcomed ambassadors from 24 Member States, including His Excellency Farrukh Tursunov of Uzbekistan, which sponsored the resolution, and Rosario Sánchez Grau, Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism. UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili remarked, “The adoption of the resolution was a joint achievement. The year 2027 will highlight tourism’s unique ability to drive development and opportunity, while ensuring sustainable and resilient growth.”

In 2023, a total of 24 hotel chains and boutique establishments in major metropoles and other top tourist destinations in South Africa put forward their best and brightest for the Inter-Hotel Challenge.

This year, 32 hotels are participating, competing across a variety of hotel and restaurant service categories, from concierges, wine stewards, and mixologists to chefs, pastry chefs, bakers, and baristas. Chania Morritt-Smith and Annette Kesler of Showcook.com said, “Across the board, standards have continued to rise year after year. Awareness of zero single-use plastic and waste is uppermost. For cheffing competitors using seafood, it is mandatory to choose from WWF-SASSI-approved green-listed options.”

A strong focus is placed on promoting eco-sustainability by raising awareness of the excellent work that WWF-SA is doing, especially with SASSI and their emphasis on zero waste practices and reducing the use of single-use plastics. Pavitray Pillay, Environmental Behaviour Change Practitioner & WWF-SASSI Manager, says, ‘WWF-SASSI maintains that chefs, particularly young and upcoming chefs, have the power to transform the culinary industry both environmentally and socially. With our food systems in crisis, chefs can lead the way in safeguarding our natural resources by choosing sustainable options like green list fish, ensuring that we have healthy, sustainable food into the future.’

Among the other IHC partners are the National Youth Development Agency, The Diamond Works Institute, KitchenAid Africa, Lancewood and ScanPan.

Wasseem Carrim, CEO of the National Youth Development Agency, said tourism was a critical growth engine of the South African economy. “It provides quality and meaningful opportunities for young people, which is why we support the challenge with such pride.”

When you show determination and talent, every effort should be made to help you get ahead. The annual national competition identifies potential hospitality talent and then provides preparatory training and mentorship for all participants. The Challenge is structured to fast-track training in hotel and restaurant services. This raises hospitality standards, expands job creation, and promotes economic inclusion. South Africa offers local and international tourists a world-class experience, enhancing the country’s competitiveness as a foremost travel destination.

In 2023, the biggest prizes were awarded to the IHC’s top wine steward, chef, and pastry chef, who all won travel opportunities outside South Africa. The 2023 IHC Wine Steward of the Year is Nkanyiso Zikhali of the KwaZulu-Natal boutique hotel, The Oyster Box. The one-time waiter and specialty wine shop assistant flew to Amsterdam for a two-week internship in the city’s fine dining milieu and wine retailing. He joined Margot Janse’s acclaimed SAAM restaurant and Alexander Heim’s Cape Town Social Club, exploring the culture of the city. The Netherlands is a key source of international tourists for our country. What better way than to experience how they pair their wine and food at home and learn about the wines to which they are exposed. This has given Nkanyiso valuable context in building his career. His prize also included bursaries from the Sommeliers’ Academy and the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA).

Cornelius Suthse of the Sun City Convention Centre took the title of Chef of the Year. Currently a commis chef, he hopes to see his career trajectory accelerated by his three-week internship with O&L Leisure Hotels & Lodges at Swakopmund’s upmarket Strand Hotel, a popular Namibian tourist spot.

Phathiswa Plaatjie of The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, along Cape Town’s Atlantic seaboard, is a pastry chef de partie and the Ultimate Lancewood Pastry Chef of the Year. Her prize included three weeks at Château de La Creuzette in Boussac, France, absorbing incomparable French flair to share with her peers.

We look forward to announcing the teams and prizes in August!

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