In 15 weeks we will know who our own MasterChef SA is.  We are curious to hear who our readers think will become MasterChef SA, and why.  We ask you to send in your nominations with a motivation via Comment to this Blog (please add your name and surname).

To thank you for your input, we will award one lucky reader a complimentary weekend of your choice location at one of our Whale Cottages in Camps Bay, Hermanus, or Franschhoek, subject to availability, out of all of those entries correctly predicting the winner of MasterChef SA.

Whale Cottage Camps Bay is ideally located 500 meters from Camps Bay beach and 25 restaurants on the Camps Bay Promenade.  It offers secure parking on the property, with seven seafacing double rooms, and single rooms facing the Twelve Apostles and Lion’s Head.

Whale Cottage Hermanus is located on the seafront, with a wonderful view onto Walker Bay, in which Southern Right whales and their calves frolic from May – November.  The region is also known for its excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines in particular, from estates such as Hamilton Russell, Hermanuspietersfontein, and Creation on the Hermanus Wine Route.

Franschhoek is best known as the Gourmet and Wedding capital of South Africa, and some of its wine estates recognised  as the best in the country. Whale Cottage Franschhoek is situated 200 meters from the main road in the village, up the road from Le Quartier Français and Reuben’s Franschhoek.

Jorgensen’s Distillery has generously donated two of its brands to the runner-up of the competition to correctly predict MasterChef SA, their Savingnac Potstill Brandy (value R300) and Naked Lemon Limoncello (value R120). The Savingnac Potstill Brandy is made in Wellington, and has roots of brandy making on the same property going back more than 300 years. Specially made wine is double distilled in owner Roger Jorgensen’s copper pot still to concentrate the flavour and the alcohol, and then is matured for a period of ten years or more in French oak barrels. The Naked Lemon Limoncello is made from hand-picked organic lemons, hand zested, with the skins macerated for 12 days in fragrant wine spirits to infuse the spirit with the lemon oils, giving the liqueur the vibrant yellow colour. It is bottled at 30% alcohol, and can be served with desserts or drunk ice cold.

To get the ball rolling, a listing of the eighteen MasterChef SA finalists, and our predictions of the chances of some of them winning MasterChef SA, follows:

Babalwa Baartman – would it be feasible for her to run the MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg for a year, being from Cape Town, if she wins MasterChef SA? No exposure in episode 4 and 6. Eliminated in episode 8.

Berdina Schurink – she auditioned in each of the three MasterChef SA cities, so determined was she to become a finalist. The MasterChef SA write-up describes her as ‘serious, determined and focused’. They warn viewers to not be fooled by her quiet and reserved nature. Pastry is her speciality.  Berdina kept her pose when she fell into the bottom five for a childhood dish in episode 4, and her ‘pressure test’ koeksisters were judged to be perfect. She went into the ‘Pressure Test’ for the second time, but her lamb was undercooked, and therefore she was voted out by the judges in episode 5.  Berdina has opened Bella Sophia Culinary Café in Riviera in Pretoria.

Brandon Law – little is known about him, but he has done fan signings at Eastgate. He is interested in molecular gastronomy. Could he become our next Chef Richard Carstens?  No exposure in episode 4 and 6. Eliminated in episode 8.

Charles Canning – being based in Cape Town, can he afford to be away from his family panel beating business, a family with four children, and the Cape Town Highlanders, which he leads, to take over the MondoVino restaurant for a year?  Both his childhood dish and ‘pressure test’ koeksisters bombed and he was one of two sent home in episode 4.

Deena Naidoo – his Butter Chicken was loved by Chef Pete in episode 1 and he finished it all, it tasted so good!  He has been interviewed by the Sunday Times. on 15 April.  There is no real story to the interview, entitled “Masterchef hopeful not just ‘curry guy’“, but it does state that he took unpaid leave to participate in the competition.  Interesting is that he wears a MasterChef branded chefs’ top in the newspaper photograph.  Interesting too is that he is the only one of the 18 contestants to use ‘mcsa’ in his Twitter address.  No exposure in episode 4.  Made top curry dish of all in episode 6.  Leader of winning Blue team in Navy challenge.  Did well with Denningvleis dish in episode 8. Only finalist not yet in a pressure test. To go into his first Pressure Test in episode 12. One wonders how MasterChef SA could have chosen Deena as a candidate if he does not drink, given that a chef would have to know his wines, and pair them with his foods. Given that Nederburg is a sponsor, and a wine training course offered by the South African Sommelier Association is part of the prize, they could not have a MasterChef SA winner who does not drink wines. Deena made a superb Passion Hazelnut Gateau in his Pressure Test, to his own surprise, in episode 12. In Pressure Test in episode 13, but survived it, despite heavy criticism from Chef Pete Goffe-Wood of over-smoking his fish.  Not very successful in his Springbok loin Pressure Test in episode 15. Won the bell for best dish, to call on Chef/Judge input in episode 17, in episode 16. Highly praised by Chef Michel Roux Jnr from La Gavroche in London.  Deena won the best dessert in episode 17, winning him a test drive in the Hyundai Elantra for a picnic with his wife Cathy at Plaisir de Merle in Franschhoek. Deena has gone through to the Finale.

Fortune Kangueehi – could a MasterChef SA come from Namibia?  The judges may vote this advertising executive out over time on this basis alone.  Her childhood dish did not make it, and she forgot to add baking powder to her ‘pressure test’ koeksisters, and became the second person to leave in episode 4.

Guy Clark – from friends of friends we have heard that he has made it close to the top.  He is not visible on Social Media.  Has this former model and now property broker gone underground? Does this make him the winner? No exposure in episode 4 and 6. In Red Team ‘Pressure Test’ with not so good pig’s ear dish. Eliminated in episode 9 for his soufflé.

Ilse Fourieshe attracted attention for the most favourable comments of all for her hot cooking (salmon steak) in episode 1, and she was the fastest egg whisker of all finalists in episode 2. She has had a write up on Channel 24. She is also pretty, having been a lingerie model, and this would add an extra touch of spice to the award! No exposure in episode 4. Praise for her curry dish in episode 6, and pork shoulder in episode 7.  Did well with Tripe dish in episode 8. Not visible in episode 9 and 10.  Seen in M-Net promo ad for MasterChef SA on 15/6, in which she says she will move to Johannesburg, should she win.  Eliminated in episode 14, after her mini Boerewors popped, and she struggled to debone her lamb shoulder in the resultant Pressure/Perseverance Test.

Jade de Waal – loved by some and hated by others for her odd English/Afrikaans/undefined accent, she is a true character.  Her cardamon ice cream was loved by the judges in episode 1. She was interviewed extensively after this episode by her aunt Sonia Cabano on the Robertsons Twitter account, when she still was the Social Media Manager for Robertsons.  Jade received extensive ‘airtime’ in this Twitter interview, which no other contestant has received on this account to date.  She has changed the name of her Twitter account, and has locked it as well, only allowing certain Tweeters to read it.  Is she too hip, trendy, and frivolous for such a serious accolade?  Based in Cape Town.  Her Avo Ritz with a twist was highly praised in episode 4.  She has announced that she has written a Cook Book on vegetables with her aunt.  She was interviewed by Huisgenoot, she announced on Twitter. No exposure in episode 6.  First criticism seen, for her Waterblommetjie bredie dish (with Sue-Ann Allen). She made a very poor soufflé, which should have seen her eliminated in episode 9, many on Twitter felt. In the Elimination Challenge in episode 10. Going into Pressure Test in episode 12.  Voted out in episode 12, for a mess of a Passion Hazelnut Gateau.  Reported to have written a cookbook ‘Luscious Vegetarian’ with her aunt Sonia Cabano, to be published in October.

Khaya Silingile – this Marketing Co-ordinator attracted attention in episode 1 for her highly praised scallop and smoked salmon dish, which she served with an unusual rhubarb tart. Her salmon childhood dish was praised by the judges in episode 4. No exposure in episode 6. Won the International Cuisine challenge in episode 9, with her French dish.  In the Elimination Challenge in episode 10.  Won best wine and food pairing in episode 11.  Was beaten by 4-point margin by Chef Reuben Riffel in making his Seafood Fricasee – had she won, she would have won an Immunity Pin for the next five episodes.  Announced her pregnancy in episode 13. In Pressure Test in episode 14. Eliminated due to her Springbok loin dish errors in episode 15.

Lungile Nhlanhla – this young fashion designer from Durban wants to create a link between fashion and food, says her MasterChef SA profile. No exposure in episode 4.  Was praised for her curry in episode 6 and pork tail in episode 7. Came in on budget and her R150 budget meal acceptable in episode 10. Eliminated in episode 16 for not getting her chicken ballotine correct.  It has been announced that Lungi has been appointed Junior Food editor of Drum magazine.

Lwazi Mngoma – appears very confident in his Tweets, and has been interviewed on Johannesburg radio stations Highveld Stereo and Kaya FM, and proud of it!  Due to a less than satisfactory childhood memory dish, he went into the ‘pressure test’, and was lucky to have been retained, as his koeksisters were not perfect in episode 4.  Back into ‘Pressure Test’ in episode 6, and was sent home due to his ‘Salmon Three Ways’ not meeting the judges approval.

Manisha Naidu – she cut short her honeymoon to audition for the show, says her MasterChef SA profile. She made the second best childhood memory dish, and was voted a team leader by the judges in episode 4. Commendably she elected herself into the ‘pressure test’ in episode 5, taking responsibility for her team losing the Harvest Celebration challenge, and she did not perform well in preparing the lamb rack.  She will live with the conscience of having taken Berdina into the ‘pressure test’, and causing her elimination indirectly. No exposure in episode 6. Did well in Tripe dish in episode 8. Made top Budget family meal in episode 10.  Her Boerewors dish voted best of all by the judges in episode 14, becoming a team leader in episode 15. In the Sunday Times on 8 July, a most honest interview reflected a sad past for Manisha, battling bulimia, a suicide attempt, and a divorce. But she remarried last year, and was on honeymoon when she received notification that she had been selected to participate, and therefore cut the honeymoon short. Manisha did not have to go into the Pressure Test in episode 17. Manisha forgot to add the pea shoot to her dish in episode 18, and made plating mistakes which cost her a place in the Finale, and she was sent home.

Mmutsi Maseko – as a ‘stay-at-home’ mum, she may not be able to take up the prize of the restaurant chef. She ‘cooks from within’, says her MasterChef SA profile, and her favourite foods to prepare are meat, pap, and chakalaka.  Floundering in her childhood memory dish by running out of time, she redeemed herself in the ‘pressure test’, making perfect koeksisters in episode 4.  She went into the ‘pressure test‘ for the second time in episode 5, but her rack of lamb was praised by the judges. No exposure in episode 6.  Voted out in episode 7.

Samantha Nolan – also from Cape Town, and ‘stay-at-home’ mother of four children, according to her MasterChef SA profile, so the MondoVino restaurant prize may also be a problem. Her childhood memory dish was voted the best of all, and she was chosen a team leader too in episode 4. Best judge of spices in Chef Vanie Padayachee’s curry, and could choose main ingredient for curry in episode 6.  Clearly leading the winning Blue team in the Navy challenge. First time in Pressure Test in episode 9, for having too many spices in her mince with the vetkoek.  Voted out in episode 10 for Minestrone soup.

Sarel Loots – very quick to correct an error on this blog, asked to be followed on Twitter (a no-no), and subsequently blocked our account, possibly due to our Robertsons blogpost. He also auditioned at all three MasterChef SA venues.  He loves making desserts most.  Embarrassing poorly spelt Tweets were sent by him to Chefs Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal, and Guy Fieri, all with the same message:”Love your programs. U insired (sic) me to enter @MasterChef_SA and made it to top 18 and stil (sic) going“!  He also Tweeted ‘I will win this’, at a time when the MasterChef SA winner is known to some or all of the last 18 finalists. His poor English and Afrikaans spelling should be enough reason to disqualify him. No exposure in episode 4. Into Pressure Test in episode 6 due to his curry dish, but redeemed himself with an excellent ‘Salmon Three Ways’. In Pressure Test in episode 9, for not trying hard enough with his Brazilian dish.  No exposure in episode 10.  Second best Boerewors dish in episode 14, to be second team leader in episode 15. Except for his Bearnaise sauce, his Springbok loin dish for the Pressure Test in episode 15 was a close copy of the dish by Chef Andrew Atkinson.  His peppadew stuffing of his chicken ballotine clashed with the truffle on his stuffed artichoke in episode 16. Voted out in episode 17, for forgetting the hazelnut gel.

Sue-Ann Allen – also from Cape Town, so the MondoVino restaurant prize may also be a problem.  She was so dedicated to participate in MasterChef SA that she resigned her job as lighting designer. No exposure in episode 4.  In ‘Pressure Test’ in episode 6, and was lucky to not be voted out.  Pork loin not well received by judges in Red Team ‘Pressure Test’ in episode 7.  Criticised for poor Waterblommetjie dish in episode 8. No exposure in episodes 9 and 10. Sue-Ann is on holiday in Croatia (June).  Due to her Boerewors becoming ‘droë wors’ in episode 14, she did a brilliant Rolled lamb shoulder in the Pressure Test, judged to be her best MasterChef SA dish. Her stuffed artichoke said to be closest to that of Chef Michel Roux Jnr, but her chicken ballotine, stuffed with cream cheese, less successful, in episode 16.  Survived the Pressure Test in episode 17.  One of the two Finalists going into the Finale in episode 19.  Sue-Ann was the Runner-up to Deena Naidoo to MasterChef SA.  She is doing a one-month apprenticeship with The Greenhouse, Eat Out‘s number one Top 10 restaurant, from 21 August.

Thys Hattingh – received high praise for his dessert in episode 3, when the challenge was to make the best braai dish.  Not a ‘braaier’, by his own admission. No exposure in episode 4.  Made second best curry dish in episode 6.  Leader of losing Red team in Navy challenge in episode 7.  Did well in Denningvleis dish in episode 8.  Came second with his Moroccan poached pear dish in episode 9, even if he poached it in Nederburg wine, Morocco being a Muslim country!  Into Pressure Test in episode 12.  Struggled greatly with his chocolate mousse in making the Passion Hazelnut Gateau in the Pressure Test, and was lucky that Jade de Waal’s Gateau was even less perfect than his. Eliminated in episode 13, for overcooking his fish in Zanzibar.

We look forward to your votes – please keep them coming!

POSTSCRIPT 16/4: M-Net’s Senior Publicist Ingrid Engelbrecht provided the following information about the restaurant prize: Regarding the restaurant prize, Southern Sun is happy to tailor-make the options in order to meet the needs of the winner and to ensure that all parties are happy going forward with this amazing prize. They will take into account factors such as the contestant not being from Johannesburg, having a family and any other obligations, and will assist to whatever degree is necessary’.

POSTSCRIPT 19/5: Die Burger ran a poll today, asking readers to vote who will win MasterChef SA. This is how they voted:

Ilse Fourie 32 % 367 Stemme

Jade de Waal 6 % 70 Stemme

Sarel Loots 15 % 175 Stemme

Thys Hattingh 22 % 246 Stemme

Deena Naidoo 5 % 59 Stemme

Khaya Silingile 5 % 56 Stemme

Lungile Nhlanhla 3 % 33 Stemme

Manisha Naidu 2 % 20 Stemme

Samantha Nolan 4 % 41 Stemme

Sue-Ann Allen 6 % 68 Stemme

POSTSCRIPT 27/7: The winners of the MasterChef SA Winner competition are the following:

*   Weekend at a Whale Cottage guest house in Camps Bay, Hermanus, or Franschhoek: Francesca Tiganis. Her motivation for nominating Deena was as follows:My vote is for Deena Naidoo – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching him evolve with such passion and confidence, but in the most humble way. The way he listened so carefully to Chef Michel Roux and Chef Margot Janse really helped him execute his dishes so very well – he deserves to win Masterchef SA!’

*   Jorgensen’s Distillery’ Savingnac Potstill Brandy and Naked Lemon Limoncello: Alicia Peter, for nominating Deena as follows:I nominate Deena Naidoo – because he has managed to impress the judges and audience with almost all his dishes. To impress THE Michel Roux Jnr himself is simply superb! He is so talented yet so humble. I take my hat off to him…Go Deena!’

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