Shades of gold

September 8, 2014 (Last Updated: January 11, 2019)

It was a show-stopping sight – 21 transformed tables in the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel’s ballroom, all entered into the ‘Table Display’ category of the Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge. Hotels, from the major centres of South Africa, were given the chance to compete in creativity…


Winding your way around the room, each table seemed to top the last until, in the corner, making a profound statement of elegance and style, was the Birkenhead House table. Winner of the ‘Table You Would Most Want To Dine At’ category, it was breathtakingly beautiful in its impact, but even more so in the detail, and was inspired by the latest trends in wedding and banquet decor in the USA. An American friend of the owner, Liz Biden, found the incredible leaf fabric, which formed the foundation of the display – coppery-brown silk leaves, attached individually to the base cloth, complemented the forest feel of the centerpiece. A gilded tree was the focal point, from which glass bubbles – filled with tea lights and cymbidium orchids – were hung. “More orchids were woven into the tree trunk, constructed from a broken branch found in the street after a storm,” said Alyson Kessel, the floral artist for Birkenhead House and the designer who depicted the theme “Shades of Gold” with infinite attention to detail. Moss, fascinating little assorted glass and golden bowls and stands filled with tulips and narcissus, more orchids and, of course, lots of candles, illuminated the winning corner. (Fortunately, the judges were not swayed in this category by The Oyster Box, who had presented beautifully wrapped gifts at each guest’s place – pearl cufflinks for the men and a pearl for each woman!) Each hotel had pulled out all the stops.

Jay Smith of the Jay Smith Fabric Collection and Debbie Hall of the Hall Collection mastered the challenge of judging the tables. “They played beautifully with detail, and the detail did not die – it started at the top of the centerpiece and worked down to the bottom of the cloth. Glam doesn’t have to be glitzy, it all lies in the detail and quality. Many of the tables used succulent plants, illustrating the current trend of showcasing nature.”

Michael Nel, General Manager of The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, was proud to receive the award of the ‘Most Glamorous Table’. “The ‘Shades of Gold’ theme inspired an elegant table design of fragrant white and cream roses, crystal glassware and warm candlelight positioned at different heights. It was accentuated by quality silverware and the shimmer of golden candlesticks, brought to life by the contract and depth provided by deep, black vases. The result was a timeless, glamorous table setting that invited diners to relax and indulge in a culinary adventure.”

Tsogo Sun (The Cullinan and Southern Sun Waterfront hotels) received the accolade for the ‘Table That Best Reflected The Ethos Of The Hotel’. “The table decor for Tsogo Sun was inspired by the vision, mission and values of the group. The ‘tree’ radiates abundant energy drawn from the dynamic and visionary leaders of Tsogo Sun, entrenching the principles of empowerment and diversity. It alludes to the interconnection of the people, reflecting strength, knowledge and life. The roots create a solid foundation giving birth to the growth of a hospitality group whose experiences shape your life,” said Liz Andreasen of Exclusive Hire & Events, who dressed the winning table.


The air was electric, the anticipation palpable, as competitors in the Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge gathered in the glamorous ballroom of the Belmond Mount Nelson for the awards dinner.

“The aim of the Challenge is to encourage development in the hospitality industry that will give a much-needed leg up to young talent. It was a major feat to bring all these hotels together. What we are so happy about is the level of co-operation between the hotels and the relationships that have been forged as a result,” said Annette Kesler, organiser of the competition. This year, the Challenge went national with 21 hotels competing. During a six-month period, regional cook-offs were held, leading up to the finals. Candidate chefs produced a three-course menu, under the wing of their executive chefs, while the wine stewards chose wines to pair with the dishes.
“In South Africa, we are blessed to have incredible human resources as well as outstanding wines,” said Ross Sleet, marketing director of Cape Legends. “For Cape Legends, it’s particularly gratifying to be part of the education and training of these determined young wine candidates, as they strive to reach the highest level of professionalism, which creates a great feeling of unity amongst all those who participate.”
Judge Paul Hartmann, of the South African Chefs Academy, impressed with the standards, encouraged all competitors, “To wear this jacket, one needs a certain level of lunacy, and to compete, an even greater level.”

It was to roars of applause that candidate chef Zwelithini Tshuma, of the Radisson Blu Gautrain in Johannesburg, stepped up to collect his prizes – which included a three-week working stint at the five-star Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, India. Guests at the glittering awards evening were able to experience his talent, with his winning dish being served as the main course – South African braised pork belly, roast fillet, lentil pork ragout, sweet corn and purées of carrot and orange, served with braised baby vegetables and pak choi. “Winning this competition gives me an opportunity to realise my dream of being an executive chef, and it gives me the exposure to be recognised as a chef.”

Annette Kessler.

Winner of the ‘Table You Would Most Want To Dine At’ category.

Overall winning Chef, Zwelithini Tshuma.

Overall winning team.

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