According to André Opperman, Distell's HR and corporate affairs director, the results of the 2021 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge shows how diverse the skilled sector of the hospitality industry is becoming, opening the way for far greater inclusion.
Source: Supplied | Shaun Munro & Chef Team Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani
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 and that will aid its recovery," says Opperman.
"We can be particularly proud of the broad geographic spread evident amongst this year’s contestants. It tells us loudly and clearly that hospitality expertise and innovation are not just limited to the metropoles. There is a fast-rising level of skills evident in country areas too.
"As importantly, the quality of work assessed by the judges, the range of skills displayed and the ingenuity and commitment of contestants this year was absolutely outstanding. It says to us that culinary, wine service and hospitality talent is flourishing across a wider swathe of South Africa than ever before."
Opperman said winners had come from private lodges, boutique hotels, as well as from larger, internationally and locally owned hotel groups.
"This represents a healthy, well-balanced cross-section of hospitality in the country. Many of these establishments endured immense hardship under the pandemic but remained undeterred in their commitment to excellence. That really is very good news for tourism SA."
Food doyenne and challenge co-founder Annette Kesler added that wine and cocktail service staff and chefs showed a high degree of professionalism matched by an awareness of new consumer priorities around health, wellness, and sustainability. "We were very impressed by their diligence and focus as much as by their awareness of changing needs. This year’s inventive dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, imaginative wine pairings and original cocktails showcasing local botanicals and other flavours combine to make South Africa a highly attractive country to visit."
She said the judges were both thrilled and moved by the palpable desire to succeed amongst so many entrants: "Their focus and application, their ambition and dynamism bode very well for the future of South African hospitality in promising visitors a top-quality experience."
She said the prize for the top-performing wine steward, Sylvain Kapompa of Ellerman House in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, included working alongside the award-winning sommelier team at London’s famous 67 Pall Mall Club, and onto Red Carnation’s exquisite Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant in Evershot, Dorset, 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. He has also earned bursaries from both the Sommeliers Academy and Cape Wine Academy to continue his studies.Chef of the Year
, Asanda Khanyile of the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani in Durban will spend three weeks interning with Minor Hotels, at a destination to be confirmed in 2022. Pastry Chef of the Year
, Prenolin Naidoo from the Beverly Hills in Durban receives a cash prize of R10,000 and will spend three weeks interning in France at the Château La Creuzette in Boussac, with flights sponsored by Lancewood. View winners here
.All images supplied