The winners of the 2020 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge were announced on the 3rd of March, at an intimate awards ceremony held at the Taj Cape Town’s Bombay Brasserie, and broadcast digitally. This comes in the wake of an unprecedented year that saw the Covid-19 global pandemic severely impacting the South African tourism and hospitality sector amongst others.
Annette Kesler of Showcook.com, says the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge has been running since 2013: “The year 2020 is one that will remain indelibly imprinted on our memories. For the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge, watching the hospitality industry come to a standstill was devastating. For a brief moment, we wondered if the challenge could even continue. It is a testament to our partners, the hotels, the food producers, the wine and spirit makers… and the tenacity of our candidates and their mentors, that tonight, in the regal setting of the Bombay Brasserie at Taj Cape Town, we celebrate the end of a successful 2020 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge. As much as we honour the winners, we also salute every single person who stepped up to be part of the challenge in ways that we could not have conceived or ever hoped for.
“Even the way we announce our winners tonight has come about as a result of having to find ways of continuing our mentorship work, even in the face of a deadly pandemic,” she stated, referring to new ways of working due to Covid-19 and the way in which the challenge has been adapted to embrace virtual solutions.
“The core objectives that lie at the heart of the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge, now in its ninth year, remain unchanged. We are about mentorship for the next generation of hospitality giants in South Africa. The young men and women we meet as candidates throughout the challenge, are the same individuals who go on to become the leading lights in South Africa’s hospitality industry. Hospitality is the backbone of tourism, a core South African sector.
Without programmes like this, and the passionate commitment of our sponsors, the hotels and their management teams, sommeliers, executive chefs, farmers, food and beverage producers and educators across the disciplines, our hotel industry would not be able to sustain the high standards by which we are known around the globe.”
Kesler also explained that it’s now more important than ever before to offer opportunities to young South Africans. “Our country’s youth is in an employment crisis. Currently, just a little over one out of every two South Africans between the age of 15 and 34 are unemployed, not in school or in any formal educational programme. This year, the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge is placing even stronger emphasis on facilitating a platform that allows the industry to join forces to change the lives of young talent across the country.”
Richard Rushton, Distell’s chief executive officer (CEO) says: “It’s an incredible honour for Distell to be the headline sponsor of the annual Inter-Hotel Challenge for the eighth year running. Our long-standing involvement is a clear demonstration of our commitment to South Africa’s hospitality sector, and to skills development and transfer.
“What makes the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge such an important and progressive platform is the way it actively encourages the pooling of talent, skill and resources for greater impact, something that’s needed now more than ever before. Congratulations to the winners. We’re enormously excited by the potential of our country’s young hospitality talent and look forward to their contribution to this vitally important sector.”
The categories of the 2020 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge encompassed a wide field of hospitality talent including concierges, wine stewards, baristas, bakers, chefs, pastry chefs and more.
The winners are:
DISTELL INTER-HOTEL CHALLENGE WINE STEWARD OF THE YEAR: Keegan Terry, Belmond Mount Nelson (Nederburg & Three Ships)
2nd: Joint winners; Emile Liebenberg, The Liz McGrath Collection (Pongrácz & Cruz) and Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (Nederburg & Scottish Leader)
3rd: Xolani Mzileni, The Beverly Hills (Allesverloren & Klipdrift)
MOST PROMISING WINE STEWARD: Joint winners; Sithembile Angel Khuzwayo, Durban ICC (Pongrácz & Cruz) and Lindokuhle Siya, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa (Allesverloren & Three Ships)
MOST UP & COMING WINE STEWARD (‘THE WONGA PRIZE’): Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (Nederburg & Scottish Leader)
EXQUISITE SERVICE: Keegan Terry, Belmond Mount Nelson (Nederburg & Three Ships)
DISTELL INTER-HOTEL CHALLENGE CHEF OF THE YEAR: Ivanna Ganesh, The Beverly Hills
2nd: Joint winners; Rameez Ceres, Belmond Mount Nelson and Angeline Mthembu, De Hoek Country Hotel 3rd: Mfundo Gcwensa, Durban ICC