Joyce Mesu, Chef Candidate, and Mercy MwaiTwo of One&Only Cape Town’s brightest service industry employees are teaming up for the annual Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge. In its second year and now taking place on a national level, this competition sees young chefs and wine stewards at some of South Africa’s top hotels vie for awards. Twenty-one top hotels around the country will be taking part this year, and the candidates that have been chosen for their skill and promise from One&Only Cape Town are Joyce Mesu, Chef Candidate, and Mercy Mwai, Wine Steward Candidate. Both work as part of the Nobu Cape Town restaurant team.

They hope to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner of the Wine Steward category, Tinashe Nyamudoka, who has worked at One&Only since its opening five years ago. He enthused that this top resort style hotel was the place where he was able to make wine his career.

This year’s candidates will definitely have their work cut out for them, as they go up against other big-hitting hotels such as the Cape Grace Hotel and Fairmont Zimbali Resort. But Joyce and Mercy are both excited and confident – traits that will show their mettle during the competition.

Mercy views it as an honour to be nominated to represent One&Only Cape Town. Having worked at Nobu for five years, she says, “I have been fortunate enough to work with dedicated and enthusiastic wine professionals, especially Luvo Ntezo and Tinashe Nyamudoka. They both have ignited my newfound love of wine and encouraged me to take on wine as a career.” Last year there were only men in the wine steward category of the competition, so it’s a big challenge for Mercy to show what she’s capable of, and she hopes there will be other women competing with her in the Wine Steward category this year.

For Joyce, it’s all about passion in the kitchen. “I see this opportunity as a reward for the culinary passion and hard work I’ve contributed in the industry so far,” he says. Furthermore, Joyce adds: “I really feel honoured and privileged to be able to represent One&Only Cape Town.”

The Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge focuses on the vital part hotels play in the South African tourism and hospitality sector when it comes to nurturing new talent. Young trainees not only are inspired and mentored, but eventually become ambassadors for South Africa too. Showcook, run by food doyenne Annette Kesler has helped to create and facilitate this opportunity for our young talent to shine. “This initiative is unique in that it is both a competition and a collaboration,” says Kesler. “It is a competition in the sense that each hotel and their representatives will be striving to be the best among peers. It is a collaboration not only in the pairing of hotels and wine estates but also in its purpose of promoting South Africa as a destination for discerning tourists.”

In the competition, the hotel teams are paired with a Cape Legends wine estate: Candidate Chefs must create a three-course menu, which will be paired with wine chosen from the estate by the Wine Steward. Candidate Chefs will be mentored by their respective Executive Chefs, while the Candidate Wine Stewards by their Sommeliers.

Furthermore Kesler adds: “Having just returned from Johannesburg and Durban I can say that there is a great deal of determination and a will to win from all our hotels. So yes, it will not be a walk in the park, but what this initiative will do is to raise the bar!”

Prizes for the young hopefuls not only include bursaries, master classes and the Rolls Royce of kitchen equipment by KitchenAid, but a variety of mentorships and memberships too.

The winners of this year’s Inter Hotel Challenge will be announced at a glittering gala evening on 25 July at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel’s Ballroom.