Mount Nelson Reaching for Young Stars competition kicks off on 4 June

by | May 3, 2022 | News, Wineland

A team from the Cape Town campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio are hard at work preparing for the upcoming Mount Nelson Reaching for Young Stars competition.

The Reaching for Young Stars cook-offs take place on June 4 with the glittering award ceremony at the Mount Nelson hotel on June 15, the day before Youth Day.

The Reaching for Young Stars initiative is a 14-year-old cooking competition organised by Showcook, and one in which students from the Western Cape’s top culinary schools compete against one another in teams which consist of chefs, pastry chefs, baristas and beverage students.

The Capsicum Culinary Studio team – who will partner with Ernie Els Wines – consists of Rebekah Brown (pastry chef), Aidan van Gemst (beverage & barista), Tinotenda Sadziwa (baker), Je’maine Cloete (chef) and Christiaan Damons (assistant chef).

“It is an intense competition and the students taking part will be under a lot of pressure to deliver the best they can to impress the judges. It’s a great learning curve that will stand them in good stead in their careers,” says Capsicum Cape Town campus head Candice Burger.

As the designated chef, Cloete will be tasked with preparing a starter (vegetarian) and main course within a four-hour cook off period using ingredients provided by the sponsors. As the pastry chef, Brown’s challenge will be to make a baked cheesecake while Sadziwa’s will be to present three styles of bread; a baguette, a ciabatta and a health bread.


Young stars participating: Aiden van Gemst, Jemaine Cloete and Rebekah Brown.

The Reaching for Young Stars cook-offs

Beverage and barista student Van Gemst will have to impress with two ‘Creative Cocktails’, one using brandy and the other with gin as well as discuss the three wines that inspired the team’s three course menu, and present three styles of coffee, including an espresso, a cappuccino and a choice of caffè latte, cortado or a dirty chai latte.

Since it was launched in 2008, the Reaching for Young Stars competition has gained momentum as it lines up some of the province’s top hospitality industry youngsters and launches them into their careers. “We are enormously proud of the achievements of our candidates over time and how the Reaching for Young Stars was their starting point,” says the duo behind the initiative, Annette Kesler and Chania Morritt-Smith of

Mentorship is what lies at the heart of the Showcook project. Although it is a combination of learning and competition, the programme exposes the competitors to the cream of the hospitality industry. The candidates are also introduced to opportunities and an environment where top chefs, sommeliers, baristas and bakers offer their extensive knowledge and inspire young professionals destined to become the next generation of chefs, wine stewards, pastry chefs, bakers and baristas.

In addition, the programme is designed to raise awareness of local and global partnerships. Students are introduced to some of this country’s finest companies, meet local farmers who follow sustainable practices, engage with guest speakers who share valuable insights into the hospitality industry and meet the dynamic people behind international brands.

Judges for the various categories include Mount Nelson executive chef Rudi Liebenberg and journalist Mariëtte Crafford (three-course menu); Craig Hibbert, executive pastry chef at the Vineyard Hotel and Spa and Jac Kolver, lecturer at South African Chefs Academy (pastry chefs and bakers); Penelope Horwood, communications specialist at KWV International and Luvo Ntezo, Head Sommelier at One&Only Cape Town (cocktails): Winemaker Guy Webber and Cape Grace sommelier Marlvin Gwese (food and wine pairing); and Tarryn van der Toorn and Mogammed Sameer De Long, both from Avanti SA who will be judging the baristas.


The Rising Young Stars cook-off takes place at the Mount Nelson Hotel

Prizes across the various categories include:

  • A three-month internship at Château La Creuzette in Boussac with hosts Louis Jansen van Vuuren and Hardy Olivier
  • A five-month working experience at Winslow’s Tavern, a top heritage restaurant run by South Africans Phillip and Tracey Hunt in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the US
  • KitchenAid Artisan Mixers, Gadget & Utensils, Ceramics, Bakeware SCANPAN, the finest of Global Knives, Brabantia, Avanti, Severin and Joseph Joseph
  • The winning beverage student will join the KWV team for a week where they will experience vineyard to cellar practices.
  • Prizes from KWV Brandy, Cruxland Gin, San Pellegrino, Italian Deli Online, ClemenGold®, Anthonij Rupert Wyne, Beyerskloof Wines, Ernie Els Wines, Kleine Zalze, Krone, La Motte, Neethlingshof, Simonsig, the Pinotage Association and Von Geusau Chocolates.
  • Cash prizes and vouchers from Rio Largo Olive Oil, Italian Deli Online and Avanti Coffee SA
  • Books for life from Penguin Random House.

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