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High hopes for Queen Victoria Hotel Team in Inter Hotel Challenge

The Queen Victoria Hotel is eagerly anticipating 28 November when the winners of the 2023 Inter Hotel Challenge will be announced. The V&A Waterfront-based hotel, which forms part of the Newmark Hotels & Reserves’ portfolio, is supporting a team of two young employees that are competing in this nationwide hospitality challenge.

What is the Inter Hotel Challenge?

Now in its 11th year, the Inter Hotel Challenge offers an extensive training programme and competition that aims to fast-track skills in the hotel and restaurant service industries. It aims to ignite the careers of its young South African participants.

The 2023 challenge, which commenced in August, has included orientations, barista workshops and practical mentoring excursions to various wineries and distilleries in the Cape. The practical and theoretical syllabus has been designed by Jean-Vincent Ridon of the Sommeliers’ Academy together with representatives from the Cape Wine Academy.

Who is Dylan Hendricks?

Dylan initially joined Newmark Hotels & Reserves as an intern at The Victoria & Alfred Hotel in September 2022. At the time he was fresh out of college having just completed his Diploma in Hospitality at the College of Cape Town. Executive Chef Terrence Ford, who oversees the food and beverage offerings at Newmark’s Waterfront cluster hotels, noted Dylan’s potential and hired him soon afterwards as a Commis Chef at the 5-star Queen Victoria Hotel. Dylan was also selected to form part of The Queen Victoria Hotel’s Inter Hotel Challenge team where he will be competing in the category of Commis Chef.

Who is Ashley Klassen?

Ashley joined The Queen Victoria hotel as a waiter in February this year. Jason Le Fleur, The Queen Victoria Hotel’s Resident Manager noted Ashley’s repertoire with guests when he worked as an outsourced waiter at an evening function. Jason contacted Ashley shortly afterwards asking him to join the restaurant team. His easy and personable manner set him apart and he was soon also serving at the hotel’s high-end sister property, Dock House Boutique Hotel.

Ashley was also internally selected to represent Queen Victoria’s Inter Hotel Challenge team. He is competing in the category of Wine Steward and has achieved 94.8% for his Inter Hotel Challenge Sommelier Academy exam. While Ashley has several years of work experience in hospitality, tourism, and administration, this is his first formal training experience and one in which he has excelled.

A menu personally curated for the challenge

For the cook off, which took place at Capsicum Hotel School in Cape Town during October, the Queen Victoria Hotel Team designed a bespoke food and wine menu which incorporated many of the ingredients supplied by the Inter Hotel Challenge’s sponsors.

Starting off with an arrival cocktail which had to include Cruz Vodka as an ingredient, Ashley created a stylish welcome drink which tells the story of Heineken Beverage’s commercial acquisition of Cruz Vodka. Inspired by a Whisky Sour cocktail, Ashley created a “Vodka Sour” incorporating Cruz Vodka, lime, and lemon geranium mint leaves grown in the herb boxes at The Queen Victoria Hotel. Green in colour and decorated with a red star, this cocktail has been designed to evoke the look of Heineken’s signature green beer glass representing the merger of these two iconic alcohol brands.

For the menu’s starter, which had to include fish from the SASSI Sustainable Fish Green List, Dylan created a Cajun Pan-Fried Kingklip dish served with charred cherry tomato, tender stem broccoli, Lancewood yoghurt lemon butter and Miso mayonnaise. This was paired with a Pongracz Brut served by Ashley.

“Kingklip is my personal favourite fish. It has an incredible flavour but is tricky to cook as it can easily be overdone. Kingklip is usually served with a simple lemon wedge, but I wanted to create something a little bit different. I combined lemon juice with a creamy yoghurt sauce to create an accompaniment for the dish that is both creamy and tangy,” said Dylan.

Ashley added that the freshness and acidity of the Pongracz Brut that he had selected paired extremely well with the creamy textures of this dish.

For the vegetarian main course, Dylan created an Aubergine Carrot Ravioli served with a celery tomato sauce, a Cape Malay Aubergine Puree and toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Ashley served this with a Pongracz Rose.

“I wanted to create a classical homemade vegetarian pasta for the main course. A butternut ravioli was the obvious choice, but I wanted to play around with some more unusual vegetarian flavours. I really enjoyed the unique flavour of aubergine and carrot. To add to some intrigue, I incorporated local Cape Malay flavours. The spices contrasted well with the mildness of the ravioli,” explained Dylan.

“At Newmark we are passionate about our people and invest heavily in training and development as well as internal promotions. Dylan and Ashley’s passion and enthusiasm is always evident, and we wish them the best of luck in the upcoming challenge,” said GM of Newmark V&A Waterfront Hotels, Matthew Smith.

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