The winners of the 2020 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge were announced last night (3 March), at an intimate awards ceremony held at the Taj Cape Town’s Bombay Brasserie, and broadcast digitally. This comes in the wake of an unprecedented year which saw the Covid-19 global pandemic severely impacting the South African tourism and hospitality sector amongst others.

Said Annette Kesler of Showcook.com, that has been running the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge since 2013: “The year 2020 is one that will remain indelibly imprinted on our memories. For the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge, watching the hospitality industry come to a standstill was devastating. For a brief moment, we wondered if the challenge could even continue. It is a testament to our partners, the hotels, the food producers, the wine and spirit makers… and the tenacity of our candidates and their mentors, that tonight, in the regal setting of the Bombay Brasserie at Taj Cape Town, we celebrate the end of a successful 2020 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge. As much as we honour the winners, we also salute every single person who stepped up to be part of the challenge in ways that we could not have conceived or ever hoped for.

“Even the way we announce our winners tonight has come about as a result of having to find ways of continuing our mentorship work, even in the face of a deadly pandemic, she stated, referring to new ways of working due to Covid-19 and the way in which the challenge has been adapted to embrace virtual solutions.  

“The core objectives that lie at the heart of the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge, now in its ninth year, remain unchanged. We are about mentorship for the next generation of hospitality giants in South Africa. The young men and women we meet as candidates throughout the challenge, are the same individuals who go on to become the leading lights in South Africa’s hospitality industry. Hospitality is the backbone of tourism, a core South African sector. Without programmes like this, and the passionate commitment of our sponsors, the hotels and their management teams, sommeliers, executive chefs, farmers, food and beverage producers and educators across the disciplines, our hotel industry would not be able to sustain the high standards by which we are known around the globe.” 

Kesler also explained that it’s now more important than ever before to offer opportunities to young South Africans. “Our country’s youth is in an employment crisis. Currently, just a little over one out of every two South Africans between the age of 15 and 34 are unemployed, not in school or in any formal educational programme. This year, the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge is placing even stronger emphasis on facilitating a platform that allows the industry to join forces to change the lives of young talent across the country.”

Richard Rushton, Distell’s chief executive officer (CEO) says: “It’s an incredible honour for Distell to be the headline sponsor of the annual Inter-Hotel Challenge for the eighth year running.  Our long-standing involvement is a clear demonstration of our commitment to South Africa’s hospitality sector, and to skills development and transfer.

“What makes the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge such an important and progressive platform is the way it actively encourages the pooling of talent, skill and resources for greater impact, something that’s needed now more than ever before. Congratulations to the winners. We’re enormously excited by the potential of our country’s young hospitality talent and look forward to their contribution to this vitally important sector.”

The categories of the 2020 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge encompassed a wide field of hospitality talent including concierges, wine stewards, baristas, bakers, chefs, pastry chefs and more.

The winners are:

DISTELL INTER-HOTEL CHALLENGE WINE STEWARD OF THE YEAR: Keegan Terry, Belmond Mount Nelson (Nederburg & Three Ships)
2nd: Joint winners; Emile Liebenberg, The Liz McGrath Collection (Pongrácz & Cruz) and Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (Nederburg & Scottish Leader)
3rd: Xolani Mzileni, The Beverly Hills (Allesverloren & Klipdrift)

MOST PROMISING WINE STEWARD: Joint winners; Sithembile Angel Khuzwayo, Durban ICC (Pongrácz & Cruz) and Lindokuhle Siya, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa (Allesverloren & Three Ships)

MOST UP & COMING WINE STEWARD (‘THE WONGA PRIZE’): Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani (Nederburg & Scottish Leader) 

EXQUISITE SERVICE: Keegan Terry, Belmond Mount Nelson (Nederburg & Three Ships)


2nd: Joint winners; Rameez Ceres, Belmond Mount Nelson and Angeline Mthembu, De Hoek Country Hotel

3rd: Mfundo Gcwensa, Durban ICC

MOST PROMISING CHEF: Mathew Oliphant, Taj Cape Town

SCANPAN EXCELLENT KITCHEN PRACTICE: Duo of Chefs Ivanna Ganesh, assisted by Sphesihle Dlomo, The Beverly Hills

Runner-Up SCANPAN EXCELLENT KITCHEN PRACTICE: Duo of Chefs: Angeline Mthembu assisted by Austin Haywood, De Hoek Country Hotel

BEST MENU PRESENTATION: Amber van Reenen, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa

MOST DELECTABLE DENNY STARTER: Ivanna Ganesh, The Beverly Hills
Study of Mushroom – Confit King Oyster Mushroom | Chevin Mousse | Hazelnut and Chilli Praline Dust | Pickled Exotic Mushrooms | Charred Onions | Lime & Dill Pearls | Apple & Date Compote | Crisp Sweet Potato ~ Allesverloren Chenin Blanc 2020

Duo of Pork – Roasted Pork Loin | Parsnip, Walnut and Cranberry Purée | Blueberry and Black Pepper Jus | Leek, Blueberry and Bacon Jam | Fondant Potato | Steamed Tender Stem Broccoli | Roasted Carrot Purée ~ Allesverloren Shiraz 2017


1st: Sohail Seegobin, The Beverly Hills
2nd: Olga Kobo, Sun Time Square The Maslow
3rd: Kristin Reagon, The Liz McGrath Collection

1st: Sohail Seegobin, The Beverly Hills
2nd: Alka Gyanda, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani
3rd: Rowan Pollecutt, Belmond Mount Nelson

2nd: Ntsiki Msweli, The Beverly Hills
3rd: Nokwasi Gigaba, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani


Lungelwa Vivian Sigwiji, I Love Coffee formerly representing Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton
Lungile Ignatia Mkhize, The Beverly Hills
Cedrick Thabo Sibi, The President Hotel

‘Passion Fruit Sunset’ with Three Ships – Keegan Terry, Belmond Mount Nelson

‘Sea Sour’ with Scottish Leader – Justice Zondo, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani
‘Senza Cruz’ with Cruz and S. Pellegrino Essenza – Emile Liebenberg, The Liz McGrath Collection


STARTER: Pan-Seared Scallops with Denny King Oyster Mushrooms | Asian Greens | Lemon Gel | Tomato | Aji Dressing ~ Pongrácz Rosé
Chef Angeline Mthembu & Wine Steward Eid Dube, De Hoek Country Hotel

MAIN: Pork Loin, Bacon and Cabbage Wellington | Celeriac and Parsnip Pave | Prune and Pickled Onion Chutney | Baby Sautéed Vegetables with Rio Largo Olive Oil ~ Nederburg The Brew Master 2017
Chef Rameez Ceres & Wine Steward Keegan Terry, Belmond Mount Nelson

DESSERT: Spiced Blueberries, Pistachio and Citrus Tart | Lancewood Vanilla Mascarpone Crème ~ Nederburg The Winemasters Noble Late Harvest 2017
Pastry Chef Rowan Pollecutt & Wine Steward Keegan Terry, Belmond Mount Nelson

SHOWCOOK MAN OF THE MATCH: Patrick Fisher, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa

MENTOR OF THE YEAR: Hagashen Moodley, Sous Chef, The Beverly Hills

Anel Rust, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa
Michael Chihwai, The President Hotel
Khatao Lawrence Magedane, Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton

BEST TEAM AWARD presented by KitchenAid Africa: TheBeverly Hills

GENERAL MANAGER (GM) OF THE YEAR: John Aritho, The Beverly Hills


Sinead Sinclair, 97%, formerly of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton
Devika Giga, 97%, formerly of Taj Cape Town
Danielle Fourie, 93%, formerly of NH The Lord Charles
Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo, 93%, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani
Xolani Mzileni, 93%, The Beverly Hills
Sakhile Ngubane, 90%, formerly of The Protea Hotel by Marriott Durban Edward
Keegan Terry, 90%, Belmond Mount Nelson


Sinead Sinclair, 96%, formerly of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton
Putuma Mbonwa, 96%, formerly of Southern Sun Cape Sun and SunSquare Cape Town City Bowl (Tsogo Sun)
Lindokuhle Siyo, 96%, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa
Fortune Joseph Sithole, 96%, formerly of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton
Ayabonga Makupula, 94%, formerly of The President Hotel
Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo, 94%, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani
Xolani Mzileni, 92%, The Beverly Hills
Devika Giga, 92%, formerly of Taj Cape Town

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE: Sinead Sinclair, formerly of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton (Durbanville Hills & Scottish Leader)

The judges:

A formidable and highly experienced panel of regional and travelling judges were lined up to judge the various categories for the 2020 Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge at the Capsicum Culinary Studio in Rosebank and Cape Town, and at the International Hotel School in Durban. The food judges included Hugh von Zahn, Brian McCune, the late Dorah Sitole, Fatima Stanley, Jac Kolver, Kyle Hickman and Lorraine Meaney. The kitchen evaluation judge was Julietta e Silva. Wine and spirit service presentations were conducted by travelling judges Sandy Harper and Jean Vincent Ridon. Regional wine and food pairing judges included Aubrey Ngcungama, Germain Lehodey, Karen Bloom, Kristina Beuthner, Mark O’Flaherty and Marlvin Gwese. Baristas were judged by Alison Douglas, Caroline Ncube, Leah Nabakwe, Paula Visser, Robert Shazi, Tarryn van der Toorn and Wayne Abrahams, and Concierges by Horst Frehse.

The prizes:

The Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Wine Steward of the Year 2020’ looks forward to a brilliant travel experience with Distell to Scotland with visits to two of its top distilleries; Deanston and Bunnahabhain. On the itinerary: France and an introduction to a world of wines in Bordeaux at La Cité du Vin. A two night stay in London at the superb The Montague on the Gardens with Red Carnation while working closely with the 67 Pall Mall Sommelier team – the most exclusive wine club in the heart of St James and an opportunity to work with Eric Zwiebel at the exquisite Summer Lodge in Somerset, England. In addition, the winner will receive a bursary from Distell to attend further training with the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA) and the Sommeliers Academy. http://youtu.be/memcvRaYICw 

The ‘Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Chef of the Year 2020’ is set to enjoy a three-week internship with Taj Hotels in India (https://youtu.be/msVjMpUNQCY), with flights sponsored where possible by Distell. Over the years winners have been invited to Long Beach Mauritius (2013), Taj Mahal Palace India (2014), the Shangri-La in Dubai (2015), The Alcron in Prague (2016), The Marriott Ritz-Carlton Hotel and JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai (2017), NH Collection Barbizon Palace hotel, D’Vijff Vlieghen and Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky (2018), and most recently Minor Hotels in Bangkok; at Anantara Riverside Bangkok Hotel, Anantara Sathorn Bangkok Hotel and Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotels (2019), and assisted with Michelin star chefs who participated in the World Gourmet Festival.

The Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Pastry Chef of the Year 2020’ is invited to experience a three-week internship in France, the home of fine patisserie at the exquisite Château La Creuzette in Boussac with hosts Louis Jansen van Vuuren and Hardy Olivier.A ravishing prize where the winner will continue to broaden their culinary skills and at the same time absorb incomparable French flair. Flights courtesy ofLancewood plus a cash prize. In addition, the winner will receive a superb Canon EOS M6 MkII camera to chart their journey.

The ‘Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Baker of the Year 2020’ receives a KitchenAid Food Processor while the hotel collects a KitchenAid Commercial Mixer

The Top Three Concierges each receive an exquisite diamond-studded, hand-crafted gold lapel pins by The Diamond Works Institute.

The Top Three Baristas are rewarded with meaningful prizes by Avanti Coffee SA and prizes from KitchenAid Africa and AL&CD Ashley.

The Best Team
receivesthe KitchenAid Africa Floating Trophy.

The GM of the Year receives exquisite hand-crafted gold cufflinks by The Diamond Works Institute.

Sinead Sinclair (formerly of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton) benefits from the International Hotel School’s R30 000 online bursary, designed to give candidates the tools to further their business aspirations, awarded for academic excellence.

‘The Wonga Award’ for 2020, awarded to Nhlakanipho Justice Zondo of the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, affords him a R30 000 bursary from the South African National Youth Development Agency to pursue an online business course with the International Hotel School

A splendid weekend at The Vineyard, set in five acres of some of the most exquisite gardens, is the memorable historical destination for the Mentor of the Year. A rewarding prize for a valuable key player for the success of the team.  http://youtu.be/bCp8QIMvI44

Superb prizes for all the winners fromKitchenAid Africa with Dr Susanne Reuther including KitchenAid Artisan Mixers, Gadget & Utensils, Ceramics, Bakeware and more.  

Highly desirable and stunning prizes from AL&CD Ashley including SCANPAN the finest of Global Knives, Brabantia, Avanti, Bodum, Severin and Joseph Joseph.

Meaningful bursaries fromthe Cape Wine Academy for the top wine stewards, as well as stunning hand-crafted lapel pins by The Diamond Works Institute.

Didactix  has offered the ‘Scanpan Excellent Kitchen Practice’ duo of chefs and runners-up a one-day training programme and online examination to achieve the international certificate in the Highfield Qualification Level 2 Award in Food Safety & Catering.

Generous gifts from S.Pellegrino, Acqua Panna, Italian Delionline, The Hall Collection and Rio Largo Olive Oil. Books for life from Penguin Random House and best-selling South African wine advisor, Platter’s South African Wine Guide, plus the recent Gourmand awarded book Passion for Pairing by Jean-Vincent Ridon, and the last word in delectable prizes…Von Geusau Chocolates.

Suppliers during the challenge:

Distell Wines: Allesverloren * Durbanville Hills * Fleur Du Cap * Nederburg * Plaisir de Merle * Pongrácz * Zonnebloem

Distell Spirits: Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky * Cruz * Gordon’s London Dry Gin * Scottish Leader * Three Ships * Van Ryn’s * Klipdrift

Additional: S. Pellegrino * Acqua Panna * S. Pellegrino Essenza * SA Pork * Lancewood Cheese * Denny Mushrooms * Lurpak Butter * Rio Largo Olive Oil * Bio-Wheat * Avanti Coffee * Khoisan Sea Salt