The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge is turning to distance learning in its goal to train and hone the skills of tomorrow’s hospitality talent. The organisers of the prestigious annual challenge that exposes competitors to an in-depth learning programme are moving their syllabus online, beginning with the Grape to Glass module, designed for wine service specialists.

“Yes, of course, the hospitality industry has taken a massive knock from Covid-19 but using the tools available to us and going online, we can transfer important information and continue to introduce candidates to some of South Africa’s leading winemakers and distillers,” said Chania Morritt-Smith of Showcook.com, that has been running the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge since 2013.

“And the beauty of the new approach is that candidates can return repeatedly to the learning content that was previously delivered in a once-off live lecture format. We are thrilled to be able to upskill our 2020 wine steward candidates, each of them representing a top South African hotel matched with a premium Distell wine and spirit brand.”

“Tourism has a huge role to play in our economy and an important part is the Cape Winelands, often the first port of call for visitors to South Africa. Our aspiring wine stewards – sommeliers to be – are determined and dedicated to their studies of the wines and spirits of the Cape to be able, when the call is made, to present them with flair and professionalism.”

In total, there are 20 competing teams, with most including a wine steward, chef and assistant, pastry chef, baker, concierge and barista, as well as their mentors (where applicable).

In previous years, the selected wine steward candidates travelled to the Cape Winelands to cement their wine and spirits knowledge by meeting distillers and winemakers of the participating Distell liquor brands and undergo learning sessions, tastings and examinations.

Candidates are being trained online by Harry Melck, principal of the Cape Wine Academy (CWA) and Jean-Vincent Ridon, head of the Sommeliers Academy, via online platform Zoom, with exams that follow. Once the wine stewards have qualified, they all receive prestigious Distell Inter Hotel Challenge pins.

Some of Distell’s top-line distillers and winemakers are also involved in the skills transfer. They include Allesverloren winemaker Wilhelm de Vries, Pongrácz winemaker Andiswa Mapheleba, Durbanville Hills cellar-master Martin Moore, Nederburg managing director Niël Groenewald, Bain’s and Three Ships master distiller Andy Watts, Plaisir de Merle winemaker Niel Bester, Van Ryn’s master distiller Marlene Bester, Fleur du Cap winemaker Pieter Badenhorst and Zonnebloem red winemaker Bonny van Niekerk.

Morritt-Smith also said that the organisers would be closely monitoring any changes to current lockdown conditions. These developments would determine the format for judging and prize giving.

Overall, awards are being given for: ‘Wine Steward of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Most Up & Coming Wine Steward of the Year’, ‘Chef of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Pastry Chef of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Most Promising Chef of the Year’, ‘Team & GM of the Year’, ‘Top 3 Cocktails’, ‘Mentor of the Year’, ‘KitchenAid Africa Best Bio-Wheat Baker of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Best Barista of the Year’ (1st, 2nd & 3rd), ‘Top 3 Concierges of the Year’, ‘ScanPan Excellent Kitchen Practice’, ‘Denny Most Delectable Starter’, ‘SA Pork Purple Ribbon Award Main Course’, and ‘Lancewood Best Dessert’.

Find out more about this initiative, HERE…

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