Suspense is mounting ahead of the announcement of the national finalists of the 2023 Inter Hotel Challenge, sponsored by HEINEKEN Beverages. Just three of the 115 contestants competing in the event from the outset will be flying abroad to take up part of their prizes. The Wine Steward of the Year will spend a fortnight in Amsterdam (home of HEINEKEN Beverages), the Pastry Chef of the Year will be interning in France, while the Chef of the Year will spend three working weeks overseas at a top hospitality venue, still to be disclosed.  

An extensive panel of judges* is now deliberating and deciding on category winners to be announced at a gala event in Cape Town on 28 November.   

Teams from 26 top hotels across South Africa competed across a variety of hotel and restaurant services categories, from wine stewards and mixologists to chefs and pastry chefs, bakers, baristas, concierges and more. The cook-off and service presentations took place in late October, in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.  

Chania Morritt-Smith of, who, with food doyenne Annette Kesler, conceived the concept 11 years ago, describes the annual challenge as “a multifaceted competition that recognises, cultivates and rewards excellence. Before contestants can even compete, they are extended the necessary mentorship, support and practical tools through a series of workshops that help them to perform at their very best levels. The result is that whatever the outcome for individual participants, everyone is a winner.”  

Millicent Maroga, corporate affairs director for HEINEKEN Beverages highlights how important the challenge is in “promoting economic opportunity and inclusion. It grows expertise, career development and creates a talent pool for the tourism and hospitality industries.”  

In recognition of the challenge’s skill transfer drive, the National Youth Development Agency has become a partner and is providing International Hotel School bursaries to candidates who achieve outstanding results.   

The winning wine steward will earn an all-expenses-paid two-week experience in Amsterdam, sponsored by HEINEKEN Beverages, as well as wine courses with the Sommeliers’ Academy, the South African Sommeliers’ Association (SASA) and the Cape Wine Academy.  

The top chef will intern for three weeks with a top international hotel (destination to be revealed at the gala event), and the top pastry chef a three-week working stint at Château de la Creuzette in Boussac, France (courtesy of Lancewood).  

Since the inception of the award, some 1 500 candidates have been exposed to the specialty training provided by the challenge.   

Click here to view a full video of the recent cook-offs and service presentations.   

Short video clips:

Short summary video: click here

Mentorship summary video: click here

Candidate wine stewards summary video: click here

Wine & food pairing summary video: click here

*This year’s judging panel:   

Wine and spirit service:  Sandy Harper (CWM) and Jean Vincent Ridon (sommelier)  
Wine and food pairing:  Aubrey Ngcungama, Deon Roets, Wanda Cronje (CWM), Germain Lehodey, Kristina Beuthner, Karen Bloom (CWM) and Mark O’Flaherty 
Food:  Hugh von Zahn, Jocelyn Meyers-Adams, Fatima Stanley and Elsu Gericke  
Kitchen skills:  Julietta e Silva Overmeyer, Marlon de Freitas, Candice Adams, Ukhonaye Mconi, Nandile Bongekile Mtshaha and Sharon Visagie 
Barista:  Oz Davids, Johandré Delport, Caroline Ncube, Ree Moya, Malusi Ngwane, Wayne Abrahams, Paddington Chivare and Shaakira Mohamed 
Concierge:  Horst Frehse, Jeff Rosenberg, Lorna Gourlay, Mike Waller, Tarryn Tomlinson and John de Canha 

Category winners receiving trophies, cash prizes and, in the case of the wine, mixology and cheffing category winners, the chance to be mentored abroad by well-known talents, as well as bursaries to build locally on their existing expertise.   

Go to for more information.   

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