2019 Distell Inter Hotel Challenge Wine Steward Candidate: Ameera Khan

We introduce you to 2019 Distell Inter Hotel Wine Steward Candidate: Ameera Khan from the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel.

A career in wine and hospitality was probably the last thing Ameera Khan imagined while growing up in Durban. But the 22-year-old hostess at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel was recently selected to compete in the annual Distell Inter Hotel Challenge, which recognises young talent in the South African hospitality industry. As an up and coming young South African female wine steward, Khan hopes to change perceptions and receptivity to wine among traditional Indian communities. “Drinking wine as a young Indian female was frowned upon. And something I would never have imagined developing an interest for. However, I defied the odds and followed my passion. I am slowly learning that wine is an art; from the minute that bottle is opened, to the glass that is used, to the way it’s poured and finally the sip. It is an overall beautiful experience,” said Khan. Now through the mentorship by the hotel’s Food & Beverage managers and the Vigour & Verve restaurant, the aspirant wine enthusiast has developed an attuned wine palate which she describes as “a sense of personal accomplishment.”

She admits that she has a special appreciation for Chardonnay which she says is her favourite blend. Khan joined the International Hotel School in June 2015 to pursue a career in Hospitality Management where she completed her studies two years later. “I was lucky enough to secure an internship at the iconic Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel where I was committed to succeeding. I walked in at a very busy period and was overwhelmed having being exposed to the fast-paced environment for the first time,” said Khan who started as a trainee learning about guest relations, people skills, coping with large numbers and reservations.

She thereafter moved on to join the banqueting team where she was responsible for the “set up” of venues, as well as guest service during events. “It was like being on a huge ship and working in the engine room to ensure that it’s a smooth ride. I certainly made the most of that year and learnt that a happy guest is certainly the most rewarding.” Khan then moved on to gain experience as a waitress and was quickly promoted to a hostess at Vigour & Verve restaurant, where she managed the establishment and ensured guests were satisfied. “I love the vibrancy of the industry where I get to interact with different types of people every day. It drives me and develops my skills further.” Commenting on her participation in the Distell Inter Hotel challenge, Khan says she was ecstatic and felt sincerely grateful to be given this opportunity to put her best foot forward. “I am particularly honoured to represent Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel and compete against other great hotels. Just being part of it makes me feel as I have already achieved and I am appreciative to all those who believed in me.” Khan’s role as the candidate wine steward will require her to pair wines which complement the candidate chefs menu as well as prepare an additional cocktail,” said Khan.

More about The Inter Hotel Challenge
The Distell Inter Hotel Challenge aims to encourage development in the hospitality industry, giving a much-needed leg up to young talent. It is an annual challenge run by Showcook, where hotels in South Africa are matched with Distell's fine wines and spirits. Young wine stewards & chefs are nominated by their hotels and compete annually for the top spot. The candidates receive training, do cook-offs and exams to improve and test their skills and awarded at a glittering 'Oscars' event in August.