Described as the ‘Oscars of the hotel world’, the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge has become a red-letter annual event on the hotel industry calendar. The role of the competition is to provide a vehicle and public platform for creating an environment of mentorship for the country’s hospitality industry.
The winners of the fifth annual Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge was announced at a gala awards dinner on 5 August 2017 at the Southern Sun Cape Sun. Attended by the cream of South Africa’s hoteliers, chefs, sommeliers and vintners as well as top companies that supply the hospitality industry.
The initiative, championed by Cape Legends, is hotly contested as hotels around South Africa present their protégés. The candidates compete in different categories over a period of months culminating in a glittering gala event where the winners of the 2017 Challenge are announced.
The most coveted title Best Chef 2017 was won by Beverly Hills own Eugene Ramcharan.
For a starter, Chef Ramcharan produced a Woodview Wagyu beef brisket and herb crusted kingklip, served with roasted garlic and Lancewood Cheese cream cheese and parsnip mousse, carrot and citrus mousse, pickled baby radishes and candy stripe beetroots, passion fruit gel and a veloute – Nomonde Dlamini paired the dish very well with Durbanville Hills Wine Chardonnay
For main, the chef presented glazed Woodview Wagyu beef short rib and beef cheek ragout served with jewelled sweet potato mousse, honey glazed rainbow carrots, snap peas, charred sweetcorn segments and just filled baby onion cups – paired with Durbanville Hills Wine.
Chef Ramcharan finished off with a delectable ‘Dark Choc & Orange Delice’ which he served with an almond brandy snap, macerated strawberries, cognac cream and a mixed berry gel paired with exquisite Bisquit Cognac.
The challenge provides a vehicle and public platform, which creates an environment of mentorship for the country’s hospitality industry. For potential winners, the level and quality of judging is an essential part of the process. There is a great deal riding on the coveted top awards. Throughout the long journey, the judges have given generously of their time and wisdom, playing an active role in the mentoring process.
Our panel of top judges throughout SA will be headed by Heinz Brunner (honorary president of the South African Chefs Association, past vice-chairman of the World Body of Chefs and team manager of the Culinary Olympics team), Marieta Human (hospitality consultant), Megan Angus (Woodview Wagyu & Angus Beef), Craig Cormack (celebrity chef), Michelle Grimbeek (director, Cape Wine Academy), Higgo Jacobs (chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association), Sandy Harper (CWM and International Wine Judge) and Germain Lehodey (CWM and Sommelier at Mosaic Restaurant)..
Ramcharan has been with the Beverly Hills since 2015 where he works as a commis chef. His love for food and cooking started at an early age. He used to watch his mother and grandmother cooking and he was always in the kitchen helping with daily food preparation as well as cooking the meal of the day. School holidays were happily spent experimenting with dishes and recipes. “I like to cook simple well-flavoured dishes,” he says. “I am particularly drawn to Italian cuisine.”
He hopes to travel and learn about different food cultures while his ultimate ambition is to own his own intimate Bistro in the future.
He wins a three-week visit to Dubai with The Marriott Ritz-Carlton Hotel and their flagship JW Marriott Marquis where he will experience fine dining and large scale catering.
“We are immensely proud of Eugene,” enthused General Manager, John de Canha “The mentorship programme is extremely powerful and Eugene has worked tirelessly with both our executive chef Tony Kocke and executive sous Sandi Richmond. They have all worked very hard and this dedication, focus and passion have paid off.’’