Hayden Quinn Title page sunflowersIt is ironic that Australian 2011 MasterChef Finalist (and not even a winner) has become a celebrity, to such an extent that he has become the host of a 13 series SABC3 programme about sustainable eating in our country, also combining the travel highlights of the regions Hayden will visit. Beautifully filmed, with some product placement overkill, the first episode last night made one proud to be a Capetonian, and to see our beautiful city through the eyes of the guest chef! Hayden described Cape Town as the ‘tip of the iceberg‘, whilst raving about loving South Africa.

The episode begins with Hayden doing some surfing, sharing his passion for the ocean, saying it is the place at which he feels most at home.  The link to the ocean  is made, to share that he is a WWF SASSI ambassador, our local organisation that educates consumers about only ordering and buying orange-listed fish.  It explains Woolworth’s dominance in the programme, with a number of TV commercials, although none match the beautiful ads which it created for MasterChef SA in Seasons 1 and 2.  Hayden is ‘crazy about adventure’ and good food, he shared.

The start to Hayden’s food adventure was the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, where he sampled sandwiches from The Kitchen, and samoosas from Cumin Catering.  He described it as a ‘buzzing inner-city market‘, reflecting the flavours and fresh foods of Cape Town.

His next stop was Bo-Kaap and its beautifully coloured houses, where Zainie Misbach walked him through the suburb andHayden Quinn Bobotie Whale Cottage explained that the houses were built for Dutch residents of Cape Town by Malay slaves who mainly came from Indonesia, bringing their culture and cuisine to the city.   Since 1995 the local close-knit Cape Malay population was allowed to buy the houses in the suburb, the buildings governed by the Heritage Council. Zainie showed Hayden how to make Bobotie, serving it with chutney made from apricots, giving the dish its sweetness, in addition to the sugar added, leading Hayden to comment that we like our food sweet!

Nedbank is the main sponsor of the programme, linking it to its social responsibility campaign of the preservation of the environment and being green, matching its corporate colour.  Hayden is met by a Nedbank marketing representative at Manna Bay, where Hayden stayed, with  hard sell of the Boutique Hotel, obviously the accommodation sponsor of the programme.  We recently experienced a disappointing High Tea at the hotel.

The Oranjezicht City Farm, a fantastic community initiative which was spearheaded by Sheryl Ozinsky, is Hayden’s next stop.  Hayden was shown around the city farm by its Farmer Mario Graziani, and picked zucchini to take along for a dish he was to prepare, and described the project as blowing his mind. Not only does it produce produce on which no pesticides are used, but it also creates organic compost from kitchen waste brought to the farm by neighbours.  Volunteers are encouraged to assist on the farm, as is growing vegetables and herbs at home.  Woolworths Head of Sustainability Justin Smith is interviewed at the farm, and he praises the initiative.  But he is quick to share that Woolworths is working with the City of Cape Town in creating a vegetable, fruit, and herb garden at the Company’s Garden, the original garden created by Jan van Riebeek for the Dutch East India Company.

Hayden Quinn Table MountainThe highlight of the programme was Hayden’s trip up Table Mountain with the Cableway, in which he shares that he fears heights.  Nevertheless he prepares a meal at the top without cooking anything, due to the fire danger.  He points out the beautiful Camp Bay and Llandudno beaches, as well as the city centre.  He praises the mountain for it being a source of water for our city.  Using yellowtail, he prepares a sashimi dish on a ‘natural table’, a rock on which he adds the thinly cut fish,Hayden Quinn Yellow Tuna Sashimi Whale Cottage the zucchini from the Oranjezicht City Farm, some patty pans, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.  The backdrop of Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean leads Hayden to say that it is ‘the most breathtaking place I have ever cooked‘!  Disappointing is Hayden’s failure to go abseiling down the 1000 meters from the top of Table Mountain, despite his introduction of loving adventure!

Two long advertising blocks as well as a promotion interrupt the programme, understandable to generate funding for the production.  Advertisers are Nedbank, Woolworths (pushing its sustainable fish, tomatoes, and eggs), SafariNow, Hippo insurance, JC le Roux sparkling wine, GrandPa, Sensodyne (with a testimonial from a British ‘dentist’, KFC (does not match the sustainability focus of the programme), Santam (with a British announcer), Centrum (also a very obvious product placement in the programme), Mercedes-Benz GLA (in which Hayden is also driven to the Cableway), Drostdy-Hof, Lays (a misplaced ad, as the World Cup is over and its spokesperson Lionel Messi no longer the special soccer star he was prior to the start of the World Cup!), Maynards fruit-flavoured sweets, and Outsurance (filmed at Waterkloof winery).

The first episode finished off with a walk along Camps Bay beach, with Café Caprice visible for a brief moment.  The trailer for the series reflects that Hayden will visit other parts of the country, and will interact with other chefs.  He visits Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paternoster, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Johannesburg, the Northern Cape, and the Midlands, and includes Fritz Schoon of Schoon de Companje, and  Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet.   If the remaining 12 episodes are as good as that of last night, one can look forward to Monday evenings to see more of our beautiful country and its fabulous food!

POSTSCRIPT 24/7:  After such a good first episode, episode 2 on Monday evening, set in Stellenbosch, was most disappointing, with too much ‘advertorial’ content for Woolworths!  Hayden also offended Afrikaans-speakers and Stellenbosch residents.

Hayden Quinn: South Africa, SABC3, Mondays 21h30 – 22h00.  www.haydenquinn.com.au  Twitter: @Hayden_Quinn @HaydenQuinnSA

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage