Announcing ALL the winners of the 2019 Distell Inter Hotel Challenge!

Sunday, 4 August, 2019
Southern Sun Cape Sun was the glittering venue for the ‘Hotel Oscars’. The luminous tables reflected the rich heritage of our Winelands, the exquisite shades of a grape. From chardonnay to pinotage, the tables were a triumph of creativity.

The primary objective of the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge is to create and sustain a strong national base of top quality chefs, bakers, wine stewards and concierges. In every true sense of the phrase a programme of recognition and rewarding excellence.  The hotel industry offers superb opportunities for ongoing education and ultimately career growth. 

“It is useful to take a step back,” says Annette Kesler “When we began the Challenge in 2013 the enthusiasm was there, but the skills needed a helping hand. Today, I’m happy to say that these skills are thriving so with the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge we are perfectly placed to move ahead in the timing and positioning of young chefs and wine stewards to be able to meet the needs of the coming years for a veritable explosion of tourism in South Africa.”

"I am excited about the future of tourism in our city,” says Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, Alderman James Vos. Our focus will be to facilitate sustainable job creation, to help create economic opportunities which lead to new jobs and to put in place measures to ensure long-term growth. To achieve these goals, we have developed various strategies to attract more visitors to Cape Town; for them to stay longer and to spend more in the destination. Over the last decade, the sector has annually contributed between 2% and 3.5% to the local economy. Currently, the tourism economy in Cape Town sustains around 300 000 jobs in total, making it the sector with the highest growth and employment potential.”

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, South Africa has the largest tourism economy in Africa. Travel and tourism in South Africa contributed 1,5 million jobs and R425,8 billion to the economy in 2018, representing 8,6% of all economic activity in the country.

“The commitment of the hotels themselves to invest heavily in training, upskilling and expanding their staff’s capabilities is pivotal in delivering superlative service,” says Chania Morritt-Smith.

Although there is an air of friendly competitiveness one of the important outcomes of the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge is the coming together of the hotel industry in South Africa. Individuals and teams who would ordinarily see each other as competition, join forces in the name of collaborative mentorship, generously sharing their knowledge, skills and venues.

A prime example is the Belmond Mount Nelson offering an internship for the 'Most Promising Bio-Wheat Baker' - a meaningful gesture for the good of the industry as a whole. British Airways operated by Comair has made this travel possible.

In a busy programme of formal gala launches and intensive workshops for the candidates, the 7th annual Distell Inter Hotel Challenge has reached the end of its six-month roll-out phase. 27 teams representing 34 hotels around the country have now lined up their finest and most promising young protégés of chefs, bakers, wine stewards and this year, in a new move to incorporate all aspects of the trade, concierges.

“Education is the key in this industry,“ says Niël Groenewald, Managing Director: Brands, Estates & Supply chain, Libertas Vineyards & Estates. “Brands such as Distell believe we have a responsibility to train rigorously in all aspects of our business to ultimately ensure top quality service delivery. For us, this includes exposing our up and coming sommeliers to the international market and industry.” 

“It is interesting to note,” Niël continues, “that this year we celebrate 360 years of winemaking in South Africa – and international interest in our local wine industry is growing. I believe South African wine has assumed a new level of quality and a clearly differentiated and distinctive voice.

Many of those who have been following the progress of the industry over the years have remarked on the clearly visible impact of the extensive innovation in wine-growing and winemaking. This has certainly translated into greater confidence amongst wine producers, who are now more than readily expressing what is uniquely South African in their wines.

Wines of South Africa (WOSA) charts a positive growth in the overall value of South African wine exports in the Export Report 2018. It states that a 4% increase in value to R9.06 billion reflects the positive sentiments towards South African wine in international markets despite the 6% decrease in volume to 420.2 million litres of wine sold internationally. The value of packaged wine increased by 3% and that of bulk wine by a respectable 7%.”

Exposure to the international hospitality industry is an important ingredient to the Challenge as the top candidates in both the chef and wine stewards categories are flown overseas for an intensive mentorship experience with some of the most famous international names and venues in the world.

Distell will be taking the ‘Wine Steward of the Year’ for a chance of a lifetime travel experience to Distell distilleries; Deanston and Bunnahabhain in Scotland, Bordeaux and a visit to La Cité du Vin in France as well as working with the cream of sommeliers at the exclusive 67 Pall Mall in London.

The 'Chef of the Year' will be jetting off to Bangkok where Minor Hotels will host the winner for a three week internship opportunity at The Anantara Riverside and the Anantara Siam. A hugely exciting extra element to the experience is that the young chef will attend the World Gourmet Festival where he or she will be cooking with more than 20 combined Michelin stars!

”This initiative is what the South African hospitality industry needs,” commented Ashleigh Christie, Regional HR Director – Africa Minor Hotels. “There is so much undiscovered talent out there, all waiting for the chance to shine! We actively want to be a part of the process that finds and grows our new talent for tomorrow’s hospitality industry. Those of us in the industry should all strive to play a role.”

The prizes reflect the concept with the emphasis on training offering developmental bursaries and courses from partners; Distell with the South African Sommeliers Association, Cape Wine Academy, International Hotel School and most generously the Hospitality Property Fund.

Chantel Dartnall, the 2017 ‘World’s Best Female Chef’, has invited the winning Chef and Wine Steward to join her at Restaurant Mosaic for a two week internship. The seamless travel arrangements offered by British Airways Operated by Comair and Dragonfly Africa.

Concept creators, managers, organisers and drivers behind South Africa’s only inter-hotel mentorship challenge, Annette Kesler and Chania Morritt-Smith believe that their job is to bring the wealth of hospitality industry talent we have in this country together and provide a platform for learning and skills exchange. Their company dedicates itself completely to this inspiring goal.

“We have a responsibility to ensure South Africa’s hospitality stars are found and nurtured right here on our own soil,” says Annette Kesler. “That’s what the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge has at its heart. Chania and I can’t make this happen unless the hotels themselves stand alongside us" 

"It's a truly collaborative project," says Chania Morritt-Smith, "securing the future health and success of tourism as the goal.”


A new exciting element to the Challenge this year is the introduction of a photography contest. Candidates, executive chefs, management, sommeliers and anyone involved in the competition were invited to take photographs of their food and wine dishes as they started practising and preparing for the cook-offs ahead. During the Gala Launches, five winning hotels were presented with a EOS M100 Canon camera each in order to enter the second phase of the competition. The finalists continued to chart their team’s journey on Instagram #canoninterhotelfinals2019 Tonight the winning hotel team, SAXON HOTEL, VILLAS & SPA was presented with five PowerShot SX620 Canon cameras.

“Being part of the prestigious 2019 Distell Inter Hotel Challenge for the first time this year has been quite a journey for Canon. We’ve been amazed by the extraordinary culinary talent in our country and privileged to sponsor the participating hotels with a camera to capture the food art. Canon aims to inspire the creative side in every person and encourages photographers to capture, store, print and share their life experiences through the universal language of imagery. These talented chefs are creative in their own right and as an imaging company we hope that the #canonchallenge this year also inspired the teams to enjoy photographing their food as much as creating it! We hope the overall winners will enjoy their Canon cameras and continue to capture lasting food memories for many years to come!” comments Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive, Canon South Africa. 

Niel Groenewald, Jean Vincent Ridon, Winner Lovejoy Neshamba, with Sandy Harper(CWM) & Chris de Klerk(CWM)

The winners of the 2019 Challenge, announced:

Lovejoy Neshamba, Ellerman House (Fleur du Cap & Scottish Leader)
2nd: Brian Nyamara, Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa (Pongrácz & Scottish Leader)
3rd: Matakatso Moshoeshoe, Spier Hotel (Nederburg & Black Bottle)

Mxolisi Matthew Ntsele, One&Only Cape Town (Durbanville Hills & Bains Cape Mountain Whisky)

Joint Winners Mduduzi Njenjese, De Hoek Country Hotel (Nederburg & Black Bottle Whisky) Rachel Fundiswa Philile, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa (Durbanville Hills & Cruz Vodka)

Canon Photographic Presentation:


Johandré Grobler, Sun Time Square (Sun International)
2nd: Riashnie Thaver Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (Tsogo Sun)
3rd: Nicholas Freitas Sandton Sun (Tsogo Sun)

Cathrine Chetty Beverly Hills (Tsogo Sun)

Jonathan Wakefield, The Table Bay (Sun International) (Allesverloren & Three Ships Whisky)

Marcony Luzoladio Diakieleka, Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa
2nd: Nokwazi Gigada, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani
3rd: Ferdinand October, NH The Lord Charles Hotel

Chadwin Simmers, Vineyard Hotel
Letitia Haripersad, Beverly Hills

Brandan Coetzee Marriott Crystal Towers
Mushroom Gyoza  Exotic Denny Mushrooms | Mushroom Ketchup | Black Garlic and Tsume sauce ~ Pongrácz NV Rosé

Johandré Grobler, Sun Time Square (Sun International)
Stuffed Pork Leg | Parsnip Purée | Micro Heritage Vegetables ~ Zonnebloem Pinotage 2017

Lyndsey Tamson Buys, TAJ Cape Town
Valrhona Chocolate Brownie | Lancewood Lemon Curd ~ Zonnebloem Pinotage 2017

Chef Shane Vermaak and Assistant Chef Innocent Nkosi, Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa

Nancy Rowena Minords, The Royal Portfolio - The Silo

Mxolisi Matthew Ntsele One&Only Cape Town
(Bains Cape Mountain Whisky) - The African Sun
Brian Nyamara Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa
(Scottish Leader Whisky) - Old Fashioned

2nd - A Tie!
Parceville Africa Sun Time Square (Sun International)
(Gordon’s London Dry Gin) 'Sparkling G&T'
Jonathan Wakefield The Table Bay (Sun International) 
(Three Ships Whisky)  Boulevardier

3rd - A Tie!
Mduduzi Njenjese De Hoek Country Hotel
(Black Bottle Whisky) 'Ti-Punch Twist'
Lovejoy Neshamba Ellerman House
(Scottish Leader) Inkungu Emanzini ~ Mist on the Water


Graeme White and Sandi Notwala, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Denny Mushroom & Lancewood Cream Cheese Tortellini | Balsamic Gel | Peanut Crumble  ~ Fleur du Cap Chenin Blanc 2017
Lerato Monagane and Mduduzi Njenjese, De Hoek Country Hotel
Denny’s Mushroom Farm - Brown, White & Shimeji Mushrooms | Broad beans | Parsnip | Raspberry  ~ Nederburg The Young Airhawk 2016

Shane Vermaak and Brian Nyamara, Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa
Brined Pork Silverside | Pork Pie | Pickled Grapes | Cabbage Purée | Denny Mushroom | Smoked Bacon Jus | Brussel Sprout Leaves ~ Pongrácz Desiderius

Mongi Fana & Tafadzwa Ndlovu Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa
Lancewood Mascarpone Orange Mousse | Rooibos Gel | Frozen Grapefruit ~ Nederburg The Beautiful Lady Gewürztraminer 2018

1st: 93% Lovejoy Neshamba, Ellerman House

2nd: Tie with 92% Nambitha Joanne Ndum-Ndum, Southern Sun Cape Sun & SunSquare Cape Town, City Bowl (Tsogo Sun) & Titus Mutuvira, Sandton Sun (Tsogo Sun - Gauteng Team)

3rd: 88% Rachel Fundiswa Philile, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa

Alfred Henry, Southern Sun Cape Sun

Jane-Therese Mulry, Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa

Sasha-Simone van Zyl, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve Masood Sadulla, Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa Bradley Solomons, The Table Bay (Sun International)

TAJ Cape Town

Mark Wernich, TAJ Cape Town

The theme this year was Shades of a Grape from the Vineyards of the Cape.

  • ‘Most Elegant’ 1st, 2nd, 3rd:) in each category!
    The President Hotel
    Beverly Hills
    Spier Hotel
  • ‘Best Interpretation of the Brief’
    Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
    Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa
    Radisson Blu Waterfront
  • ‘The Table You Would Most Wish to Dine At.’
    The Table Bay Hotel
    TAJ Cape Town
    Tsogo Sun Cape Sun & Sun Square


The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge Chef of the Year will enjoy a fabulous opportunity of a three week internship in September 2019 with Minor Hotels in Bangkok, two weeks at Anantara Riverside Bangkok Hotel and while at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel will attend the (2nd - 8th September) where the winner will be cooking with more than 20 combined Michelin stars!

The Wine Steward of the Year will look forward to a brilliant travel experience with Distell including Scotland - the home of fine Distell distilleries; Deanston and Bunnahabhain. On the itinerary: Bordeaux and La Cité du Vin. London, a two day stay at the superb The Montague on the Gardens - Red Carnation while working with the 67 Pall Mall Sommelier team. 

In addition the winner will receive a bursary from Distell to attend the foundation training courses from the South African Sommeliers Association. 

Superb kitchenware from Dr Susanne Reuther of KitchenAid Africa for the Bio-Wheat Baker. For the ‘Most Promising Bio-Wheat Baker’, Belmond Mount Nelson has offered a two week internship with Executive Pastry Chef Craig Hibbert and Master Baker Togara Mabharani under the auspices of Executive Chef Rudi Liebenberg. Travel arrangements curtesy of British Airways operated by Comair Chantel Dartnall has offered a two week internship for both the winning Chef and Wine Steward of the Year to join her team at Restaurant Mosaic for in-depth work shadowing. As Chantel has received the accolade of Best Woman Chef world-wide this is a generous offer benefitting the industry. Among the many accolades and awards Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient Boutique Hotel has won the prestigious 2019 La Liste Award in Paris for the Best Wine List.

With special thanks to British Airways operated by Comair.

Inspirational and meaningful prizes include generous developmental bursaries from the Cape Wine Academy, the Sommeliers Academy for a one on one masterclass with Jean Vincent Ridon on an international level, The Hospitality Property Fund valued at R30 000 and an on-line International Hotel School course, all magnificent opportunities to give a leg up in their chosen career!

Highly desirable Scanpan cookware and Global Knives from AL&CD Ashley, hugely generous cash prizes from South African Pork, Lancewood and Avanti Coffee, books from Penguin Random House, Platter’s Wine Guide and an invitation to their special 40th edition launch! Plus delectable Von Geusau chocolates of course and more…!

The Valley Training and Hospitality Consultancy has offered the ‘SCANPAN EXCELLENT KITCHEN PRACTICE' Duo of Chefs a one-day training programme and on-line examination to achieve the international certificate in the Highfield Qualification Level 2 Award in Food Safety & Catering.

The Mentor of the Year and partner are invited by Minor Hotels to a four night sojourn at Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara. VIP Flights by British Airways operated by Comair. 

The GM of the Year & Concierge’s receive stunning Diamond Works Institute coveted prizes.

Wine Steward Winner Lovejoy Neshamba (Ellerman House) & Chania Morritt-Smith
Wine Steward Winner Lovejoy Neshamba (Ellerman House) & Chania Morritt-Smith

Brian Nyamara (Saxon) - 2nd place Wine Steward with his mentor (left)
Brian Nyamara (Saxon) - 2nd place Wine Steward with his mentor (left)

Matakatso Moshoeshoe (Spier) - 3rd runner up - Wine Steward 2019
Matakatso Moshoeshoe (Spier) - 3rd runner up - Wine Steward 2019

Sasha-Simone van Zyl, Concierge at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Sasha-Simone van Zyl, Concierge at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Mduduzi Njenjese
Mduduzi Njenjese

Mxolisi Matthew Ntsele with Pearl Oliver (One&Only)
Mxolisi Matthew Ntsele with Pearl Oliver (One&Only)

The Happy Sun Time Square team!
The Happy Sun Time Square team!

Jean Vincent Ridon & Yegas Naidoo
Jean Vincent Ridon & Yegas Naidoo

Nkululeko Khohlokoane
Nkululeko Khohlokoane

Tafadzwa Ndlovu, Samantha Swartz & Greg Mutambe (12 Apostles)
Tafadzwa Ndlovu, Samantha Swartz & Greg Mutambe (12 Apostles)

DistellIHC2019 (38)
DistellIHC2019 (38)

DistellIHC2019 (41)
DistellIHC2019 (41)

Sandy Harper (CWM) with Yegas Naidoo (International Wine Judge)
Sandy Harper (CWM) with Yegas Naidoo (International Wine Judge)

Johandré Grobler, Sun Time Square (Sun International)
Johandré Grobler, Sun Time Square (Sun International)

Riashnie Thaver Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (Tsogo Sun)
Riashnie Thaver Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (Tsogo Sun)

Nicholas Freitas Sandton Sun
Nicholas Freitas Sandton Sun

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