Cape Legends & Artisan Spirits Inter Hotel Challenge

Thursday, 23 March, 2017
Chania Morritt-Smith
2017 Is the fifth year of the Inter Hotel Challenge, sponsored by Cape Legends fine wines and choice Distell artisan spirits, celebrated in the industry as the ‘Hotel Oscars’!

A remarkable national initiative embracing 29 top hotels in South Africa. Hotels that are known for their gracious style, vital support of their staff, willingness to uplift, train and educate bringing about, over time, a transformation of lives.

“Understanding the social initiatives of each and every hotel has been a humbling experience. These incredible commitments reach out to communities countrywide and include all facets of life,” says Annette Kesler (Editor,

Over the years the Challenge has had steadfast support. Deputy Minister SA Tourism Tokozile Xasa says, “Importantly this initiative contributes to the hospitality industry, the heartbeat of tourism and one of our most valuable assets. This competition acknowledges the talents of South Africa’s most creative young chefs and wine stewards, recognizing the crucial role of mentorship. I wish to pledge my support in better positioning South Africa for economic growth, job creation, skills development, investment potential and ultimately making South Africa the destination of choice.” 

The Cape Legends & Artisan Spirits Inter Hotel Challenge has evolved beyond expectation,” says Annette Kesler “Becoming multi-faceted, designed to bring out skills and creativity, to nurture the thought process, give encouragement, goals and finally recognition. Both Chania Morritt-Smith (Managing Editor, and I have been thrilled and delighted to see the transformation, which has taken place over the years.”

There are two basic initiatives, which have certainly developed far beyond the original concept; the Skills Exchange Development Programme and the Grape to Glass, which takes place in the Cape every year introducing the wine stewards to well known Cape Legends winemakers at some of the finest estates and given an excellent introduction to the world of spirits encompassing fine whisky and elegant brandies.

On the wine side there is tremendous growth with superb tuition from The Cape Wine Academy and The South African Sommeliers Association. Pushing the boundaries, introducing a more in-depth wine appreciation, taking into consideration the students’ capabilities, ultimately preparing them for a satisfying career. Instilling and encouraging a love and understanding of wine culture, which has in turn produced some fine sommeliers, wine stewards and knowledgeable waiters. For them we hope that this will become a commitment to a lifetime choice of career.

The Skills Exchange Development Programme has become a special date on the calendar with international chefs, South African star chefs, and up and coming stars who demonstrate and share skills - an exciting day for our aspiring chefs, while our wine stewards are introduced to the art of red wine blending with Guy Webber of Stellenzicht and the art of making scintillating cocktails with Black Bottle!

The Regional Cook-Offs will take place in June in Johannesburg and Cape Town at the Capsicum Culinary Studio, in Durban at the International Hotel School.

“There is an art to designing a balanced menu, describing dishes precisely to excite both the palate and the imagination,” says Annette Kesler.

Using choice ingredients; Woodview Angus Beef creative cuts in myriad ways, Lancewood Cheese, Rio Largo Olive Oil and Khoisan Sea Salt. We look forward to introducing Bio-Wheat Stone Ground Unbleached Natural Flour to the Bakers. The Fourie family has been farming in the Overberg region for decades and has a choice range!

Our panel of top judges throughout SA will be headed by Heinz Brunner (Honorary Lifetime President of the South African Chefs Association, past Vice-Chairman of the World Body of Chefs and team manager of the Culinary Olympics team), Horst Frehse (Hospitality Consultant), Craig Cormack (Innovative Celebrity Chef), Megan Angus (Woodview Angus & Wagyu Beef), Michelle Grimbeek (Director, Cape Wine Academy), Higgo Jacobs (Chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association), Sandy Harper (CWM) and Germain Lehodey (Sommelier at Mosaic)

The 2016 winning chef, Rucita Naidoo representing Beverly Hills, Nederburg & Van Ryn’s, will be jetting off in May 2017 to the Michelin starred Radisson Blu Alcron in Prague for a brilliant opportunity of a three-week working visit. Return flights are generously provided by Distell.

The 2016 winning wine steward, Sibonele Nongqotho (Wonga), representing Cape Grace, Zonnebloem & Bain’s will be embarking on a brilliant opportunity of a ten-day travel experience with Distell including London, a two day stay at the superb The Montague on the Gardens -  Red Carnation while working closely with the 67 Pall Mall sommelier team - the most exclusive wine club in the heart of St James then on to Scotland with visits to top distilleries; Deanston  and Bunnahabhain. On the itinerary… France, Bisquit in stunning Cognac and finally an introduction to a world of wines in Bordeaux, La Cité du Vin! He has been awarded with a top bursary from the Cape Wine Academy and South African Sommeliers Association and had the opportunity of attending the launch of the prestigious Platter Wine Guide, tasting a large and varied selection of South Africa’s finest wines in the company of some of the country’s most experienced and trusted palates.

The 2017 winning Candidate Chef will enjoy a brilliant opportunity of a three-week visit to Dubai – a week at The Marriott Ritz-Carlton Hotel and two at their flagship JW Marriott Marquis where they will experience fine dining and large scale catering.

Generous, practical and fabulous prizes will be awarded by Cape Legends and Distell, to the winning Wine Steward as above. Superb iconic kitchen appliances from KitchenAid SA, ScanPan Cookware and Global Knives from AL&CD Ashley. Meaningful bursaries from the

Cape Wine Academy, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Hospitality Property Fund, the International Hotel School and cash prizes from Avanti. In addition, delectable Lancewood, Von Geusau Chocolates, elegant Riedel glassware and books for life from Struik Lifestyle.

“Certainly the past five years of the Cape Legends & Artisan Spirits Inter Hotel Challenge have been both exacting and exhilarating. Our winners deserve accolades for their dedicated commitment! There has been overwhelming support for the candidates from top management throughout, which has shown a true generosity of spirit!” says Chania Morritt-Smith

We look forward to introducing the 2017 teams at the Regional Launches from…

Johannesburg; African Pride Melrose Arch, De Hoek Country Hotel, InterContinental JHB O.R. Tambo, The Palazzo Montecasino, Protea Hotel Balalaika, Radisson Blu Gautrain, Sun International The Maslow and Sun International The Palace of the Lost City

KwaZulu-Natal; Beverly Hills, Durban International Convention Centre, Hartford House, Protea Hotel Edward, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani 

Cape Town; African Pride Arabella Hotel & Spa, African Pride Crystal Towers, Belmond Mount Nelson, Cape Grace, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, NH The Lord Charles, One&Only Cape Town, Radisson Blu Waterfront, Southern Sun Cape Sun, Southern Sun The Cullinan, Southern Sun Waterfront, Sun International The Table Bay, Taj Cape Town, The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, The Vineyard Hotel and The Westin

Paired with Cape Legends Fine Wines; Allesverloren, Alto, Durbanville Hills, Fleur Du Cap, Jacobsdal, Nederburg, Neethlingshof, Plaisir de Merle, Pongrácz, Stellenzicht, Uitkyk and Zonnebloem

Distell Choice Artisan Spirits: Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, Bisquit Dubouché et Cie, Black Bottle, Bunnahabhain, Monis, Scottish Leader and Van Ryn’s