Courtyard Hotel Waterfall City wins Game of Chefs!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The heat of the kitchen, the pressure of the clock
counting down, and the scrutiny of the judges and spectators – culinary competitions
are not for the faint hearted! The team of four chefs from Courtyard Hotel Waterfall City
proved they were up to the challenge and were named Game of Chefs 2024
champions, walking away with the winner’s trophy, gold medals, certificates, and a
whopping R40,000 cash prize.
Game of Chefs is an invitation-based, World Association of Chefs Societies-approved
national competition, now in its fifth year. It is open to teams of professional chefs from
restaurants, hotels, lodges, catering companies, and chefs’ associations in South Africa.
This event was also the international leg of the competition and was held in the
EconoFoods Culinary Village during the Hotel & Hospitality Expo Africa and Africa's Big
7 show on 11-13 June 2024.
The talented team from Courtyard Hotel Waterfall City included Executive Chef Natalie
Schoonbee, Pastry/Commis Chef Ro-Anne Williams, Junior Sous Chef Erick Mbudu, and
Chef de Partie Evans Mtombela. Together they created the winning menu from a
mystery basket that included papaya, turnips, tuna, duck, beef short rib, and
camembert, plus regular pantry items. On the menu was the following:
– Starter: Tuna Tataki, with cucumber and kiwi fruit salsa, pickled ginger and
– Main: Seared Duck Breast, Duck Leg and Beef Short Rib Trio, with roast garlic
mashed potato, pak choi, turnip, papaya and gooseberry gremolata
– Dessert: Camembert Mousse, with coconut sponge, berry compote, and smoked
vanilla condensed milk drizzle
Natalie says it was a team effort from start to finish. The group’s General Manager: F&B
Operations, Trevor Boyd (also an international culinary judge and past member and
manager of the Olympic Culinary Team) and hotel General Manager, Brendan Luttig,
brought their wealth of experience, advice and mentorship to the team’s practice
sessions. City Lodge Hotels sponsored their application, uniforms, and essential
equipment, all adding to their success.
She says, “During practice sessions before the competition, we carefully followed the
protocols and rules we would be judged by. We created our own mystery baskets,
practiced making menus from random ingredients, and executed our dishes within
the allotted time.”
Natalie Schoonbee says of the competition, “This was an unfamiliar but fun experience
for me. It allowed me to bond with my team members in a casual yet richly rewarding

way. Working with the team was wonderful, and I was proud of their enduring focus
and dedication both leading up to and during the competition. I see incredible
potential in the kitchen team at Courtyard Hotel Waterfall City and I trust this will not
be the last accolade acknowledging the passion, dedication, and expertise our team is
capable of demonstrating.”
Erick Mbudu adds, “Even though I practiced, I wasn’t too sure and was scared.
Competing with other chefs in the country gave me cold feet. Then I remembered my
grandma – she always believed in me, and that made me believe in myself. Preparation
wasn’t easy, but on competition day as soon as I saw Chef Trevor I felt reassured and
remembered to believe in myself. I saw him competing when he was my mentor, and I
said to myself, ‘I will do this for Chef Trevor and my Grandmother.’ From there, the fear
went away, and I told myself, ‘I will do exactly what I do in my kitchen’ and win or lose, I
would be proud. Little did I know we would win and be crowned champions! Thanks to
Chef Natalie, who also believes in me and encourages me to believe in myself.”
Ro-Anne Williams notes, “The Game of Chefs competition was absolutely nerve-racking
for me; however, I quickly fell in love with the thrill – like the adrenaline we face in busy
service when orders are piling up and prep is running out. It was truly fun and exciting
and I am forever grateful for the experience! It motivated me to want to enter more
competitions and to succeed further. To win the first ever Game of Chefs is a huge
milestone and took me by surprise. It still feels unreal but now I am more confident and
feel ten times more love and passion for the industry and the endless possibilities to
Evans Mtombela sums up the team experience, “If we can do this on our first time
competing, we can do anything!”
The eight competing teams were given 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) to gather
ingredients from the EconoFoods on-site pantry to add to the compulsory products,
write up their menus, cook, plate, and serve 15 individual servings of a three-course
meal consisting of a warm or cold starter, main course, and dessert.
Scoring criteria complied with Worldchefs rules and regulations, for a total of 100 points
awarded as follows:
– 50 Taste
– 25 Correct professional preparation
– 10 Arrangement, presentation, innovation
– 10 Mise-en-place
– 5 Service

Judges included Rudi Mueller (head judge), James Khoza (tasting judge), Mahlomola
Thamae (tasting judge), Trevor Boyd (tasting judge), Pieter Malan (kitchen judge), and
Coovashan Pillay (kitchen judge), and Martin Kobald.
Other awards were presented as follows:
– First Runner-up: Les Creatifs received a silver medal and prize money of R25,000
– Second Runner-up: Sandton Sun and Towers received a bronze medal and
– Best Hygiene Practice sponsored by Tork: Sandton Sun and Towers received a
trophy and R5,000
Trevor Boyd says of the experience, “We conducted intensive training with mystery
baskets during practice sessions followed by de briefing, competition tips, and
preparation goals. Our chefs learned quickly and applied what they learned, and on the
day I was so proud to see how professional they looked and worked – they represented
City Lodge Hotels and their hotel well.”
He adds, “The judges could see that our team was well trained and mentored. They
said competition standards were set high, the winners were outstanding, and did
themselves and their hotel very proud.”
Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, Chief Operating Officer, notes, “We are so proud of our chefs
for entering this competition, and then winning it! As City Lodge Hotels expands its
food and beverage offering, we applaud our chefs for taking every opportunity to grow
their skills and experience, knowing this enhances their careers and our service
delivery. Culinary passion shows on the plate and this is all part of a top-notch guest
experience in our restaurants.”