Wine Stewards & Chefs shine... in Inter Hotel Challenge

Monday, 30 September, 2013
Judy Brower -
The hospitality industry contributes largely to tourism, with total tourism spend contributing R10.2 billion to South Africa's GDP in 2012.  People play an important role in the tourism and hospitality world, so it makes a lot of sense to invest in them, to encourage visitors to return, spend more, drink our wines and eat in our wonderful restaurants.
Accordingly to South Africa's Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, speaking at a breakfast on 26th Sept for World Tourism Day, "The growth and outlook for domestic travel and tourism is optimistic. Currently, domestic tourism contributes R1.1 billion towards South Africa’s GDP. Total tourist spend went up from R9, 2 billion in 2011 to an estimated R10, 2 billion in 2012 due to an increase in average spending per trip from R870 compared to R690 in 2011. Service excellence and the affordability of travel and accommodation packages will go a long way to urging South Africans to travel and explore the country whilst fostering a culture of travel. I encourage all stakeholders within the tourism sector to pull together in order to drive domestic tourism”.

What better way to drive tourism than to inspire young chefs and wine stewards, by offering them a leg up, training, and giving them exposure to world-class hotels and wine experiences.

The Inter Hotel Challenge, initiated this year by's Annette Kesler and her partner Chania Morrit-Smith has done just that, challenging candidates to step up to the plate and showcase their talents during the year at a cook-off held at the SA Chefs Academy in August. The winners were announced at a glittering awards dinner on Thursday 26th Sept at the Vineyard Hotel and Spa in Newlands. Judging from the standing ovation received by Annette and Chania, it will most definitely be an annual event.
See more on the process HERE

The Challenge has been brewing for a year at least, with 10 top boutique hotels participating by nominating a candidate chef and wine steward and partnering each hotel with one of the Cape Legends' wine brands. Cape Legends is a division of Distell, who often gets a lot of flack from the industry, but they certainly do put their money where their mouths are, and have invested largely both in time and money into this uplifting competition.
The winemakers of Durbanville Hills, Fleur du Cap, Plaisir de Merle, Stellenzicht, Lomond, Pongracz, Le Bonheur, Neethlingshof, Uitkyk and Zonnebloem spent a lot of time with each chef/wine steward pair, introducing them to winemaking, food & wine pairing, and generally giving them a much better understanding of wines.

The participating hotels were Radisson Blu, Cape Grace, Queen Victoria, La Residence & Villas in Franschhoek, Bushmans Kloof, Twelve Apostles, One&Only Cape Town, The Taj Hotel, The Mount Nelson and of course the Vineyard Hotel and Spa.

The awards evening honoured many of the most successful South African foodies, viz Ina Paarman, who spoke about her 'instant success' after 20 years of incredibly hard slog, and Elsa van der Nest, an iconic South African chef who has achieved international acclaim.  Her restaurants Chez Simone and The Bistro Both won numerous accolades and international awards, including the Blazon by the Chaire Des Rotisseurs and she has also authored many books and other publications, including the culinary bestseller “Simply Entertaining”, with the first edition selling approximately 13,000 copies.  Look out for her books at your local bookstore.

Elsa now lives in Singapore and has contributed her knowledge, experience and skills to the local culinary scene, where she ran the Raffles Culinary Academy at the Raffles Hotel. In 2005, she established the Elsa Van der Nest Culinary Consultancy Pte. Ltd., a culinary consultancy business which provides culinary consultancy services to the hospitality and culinary industry throughout Asia, South Africa, Australia and Europe.

She spoke very inspirationally to the young chefs and wine stewards about working hard and taking on the challenge of the hospitality industry and that their journey is just starting. "You will make mistakes, they are like the waves of the ocean, you need to learn to surf these waves and remember that the next one is not far behind."

The hospitality industry is not for sissies, according to Ina Paarman, with the common theme of all speakers being to be aware that it calls for plenty of hard work.  Both Ina and Elsa encouraged all the participants to seize the opportunities presented in life.

and the winners are...

  • Top Chef: Gert Böcking from the Cape Grace, with runners-up being Oscar Ndlovu from the Twelve Apostles and Thaabiet Adams from the Queen Victoria Hotel.
  • Top Wine Steward: Tinashe Nyamudoka from Cape Town's One&Only in the V&A Waterfront.  The 2 runners up were Evan Sampson from La Residence & Villas in Franschhoek, and Farai Magwada from the Mount Nelson Hotel.
  • Up&Coming Wine Steward: Ndaba Dube from the Vineyard Hotel & Spa
  • Best Bread award for the night: Rudi Liebenberg from Mount Nelson
  • Best decorated table: La Residence & Villas - part of The Royal Collection

See more photographs of the evening HERE.

The sponsors for this competition have been very generous; Khoisan Salt, as well as the Western Cape Pork Producers, an association that is enviable in their approach to responsible farming with the finest input worldwide, has been very active with their support.
Gert wins a brilliant opportunity of a three month working stint at the luxurious five star Sukhothai in Bangkok, Thailand, with return flights graciously organised by Cape Legends.

Generous bursaries by the Cape Wine Academy up to the value of R35 000 for our three winning Candidate Wine Stewards are a magnificent opportunity to give them a leg up in their chosen career.

Newmark Hotels and their flagship hotel Queen Victoria are donating R15 000, The Newmark Award, towards the education of the winning Candidate Chef and Wine Steward.

The finest iconic KitchenAid mixer will be awarded to the winning Candidate Chef and exciting KitchenAid appliances to second and third. In addition hampers of indispensable culinary KitchenAid accessories will be awarded to all the participants of the Inter Hotel Challenge; Candidate Chefs, their Assistants and Candidate Wine Stewards.
Le Creuset will be giving away top of the range pans while Scanpan Knives will be presented from AL&CD Ashley.

Lindt & Sprüngli (SA) is offering three Master Classes for the successful Candidate Chefs and Struik Lifestyle will be presenting indispensable books.

Following on, the winner in Bangkok will be presenting a very special dinner at The Sukhothai attended by the South African Embassy and Plaisir de Merle. On return to South Africa at a later date there will be a final lunch at exquisite Plaisir de Merle, one of the flagship estates of Cape Legends.

Tinashe, as the top wine steward, wins a mentoring experience with Danish entrepreneur, René Dehn and his business partner, Malene Meisner, who run The White Club.  Tinashe will be flown to Zurich, all expenses paid by the Club, to participate in their unique wine experience.  The White Club, founded and designed for discerning people, is for connoisseurs who love and appreciate the finest and rarest wines in the world. The private member club is by invitation only and travels the world for the rarest and most unique experiences. A first for South Africa, The White Club launched The World of First Growths Series, an awe-inspiring wine and food-pairing experience, hosted around the globe featuring some of the finest wines internationally.

Higgo Jacobs of the South African Sommelier Association (SASA) will be presenting a complimentary 12 months Wine Advisor membership to the South African Sommelier Association for the wine steward candidate who shows promise during the challenge and who will benefit from further guidance and tutoring, with the aim of becoming a Professional SASA member in due course.

Congratulations to all the participants! According to one of the judges, Paul Hartman of The South African Chef's Academy, the deliberations and discussions to decide on the winners were long and difficult, a great testament to the top quality of the candidates.

Well done again to Tinashe and to Gert... long may your careers be, and may you sell plenty of good South African wine and food!

Judy Brower

Judy has been running alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, occasionally writes, sells services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at