Camps Bay 2 Wild JunketLast night’s episode 9 was interesting, in that it was shot away from the MasterChef SA kitchen, and that ten ‘Food Bloggers’ were invited to judge the pizzas made by two teams of Finalists, the first team challenge of Season 2.  The South Easter created havoc for the Finalists as well as for the bloggers. The ‘Blogger’ participation was a huge let down, and serving the guests pizza to judge was an insult.

The episode began with the Finalists descending on the kitchen of their house, to be confronted with a box of aprons and the instruction to divide themselves into two groups of seven.  The names were written on pieces of paper, and a Le Creuset pot served as the vessel from which the names for the two teams were drawn.   They were then driven to Maiden’s Cove, between Camps Bay and Clifton, a parking space with a beautiful view of Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles, Chef Pete Goffe-Wood saying that Camps Bay ‘is one of the iconic locations in Cape Town‘.    The challenge sounded simple –  Limoncello and The Good Life Food Trucks arrived, and the two teams were randomly allocated a truck each as their home base to prepare 12 savoury and 12 dessert pizzas each within 90 minutes.  Pizza ovens had been erected, one per team, and a small pantry was set up, the two team representatives having 3 minutes in which to grab their ingredients.  Chef Andrew Atkinson reminded the Finalists that team work is the hallmark of a quality kitchen.  They were also told (misleadingly) that the guests were ’10 of South Africa’s top food bloggers‘, and ‘are discerning customers‘!  Chef Pete won the dessert pizza section of an international pizza competition in Australia last year, the Finalists were told.

The Red team was led by Joani Mitchell, and consisted of Sanet Labuschagne, Jason Steel, Karen Els, Neil Lowe, Leandri van der Wat, and Khumo Twala.  The team worked in the Limoncello truck MasterChef 2 9 Limoncello Truck (they specialise in Italian style food), and had a good team energy. Their savoury pizza was topped with pan-seared duck (added after), chorizo, sweet caramelised onions and rocket, and was loved by the ‘bloggers’, receiving nine out of the ten votes.  The ‘bloggers’ contradicted themselves in their evaluation,MasterChef 2 9 Red Dessert pizza Whale Cottage Portfolio some describing the duck as being overcooked (Aubrey being upfront about this), and others describing it as ‘tender’, liking the combination of flavours, and finding the addition of the chorizo ‘interesting’.  Their Dessert pizza consisted of stone fruit, crème fraîche with thyme-infused white chocolate ganache, and was a flop, the chocolate ganache having burnt and should have been added after the pizza was cooked.

The Blue team leader was not clearly identifiable, but Kamini Pather spoke on behalf of it, as did Herman Cloete. Other team members were Seline van der Wat, Ozzy Osman, Mary Martin, Herman Cloete, Amanda Beck, and Tiron Eloff.  The space in The Good Life food truck (they specialise in ‘fresh, fusion food MasterChef 9 2 The Good Life and Finalistsat hot spots in and around Cape Town‘) was limited for seven Finalists. Chef Pete praised their teamwork, but was concerned that they did not have enough dough.  The wind blew off some of the ingredients. The base of their pizzas was burnt.  The team did very poorly in their savoury pizza, with a topping of chorizo and buffaloMasterChef 2 9 Blue Savoury pizza Whale Cottage Portfolio mozzarella and a Chanterelle mushroom sauce, only one of the ten bloggers voting for their pizza. It was described as boring, too small for the boxes, too saucy, and lacking ‘oomph‘.  The team did a tremendous turn-around in their Dessert Tiramisu, ganache, basil coulis and spun sugar pizza, all ten the ‘bloggers’ voting it the best, despite a near disaster when the mascarpone separated due to the heat of the day.  The situation was saved with some crème fraîche.  It was described as having a good texture, and being ‘angelic‘.  Aubrey said he wanted more of it.

The Food Bloggers arrived half an hour before the pizzas were cooked, and sat outside the Food Trucks at two tables.  The filming space was very limited, and therefore it was very difficult to see any of them for a reasonable period of time.  They were increasingly windswept, as it appears that M-Net’s production team did not take Camps Bay’s notorious South Easter into account.  Given the amount of time Food Bloggers spend in slaving over their cooking and writing, judging pizzas prepared in less than desirable conditions must have been an insult to them, especially as both teams made one particularly good and one particularly bad pizza each!   But it is the choice of the Food Bloggers that was a problem in the episode, a mixed bunch of serious dedicated bloggers, occasional bloggers, and surprisingly even a non-blogger sommelier!  We had insight into the process, having been invited to be part of the episode at the end of January.  We signed confidentiality contracts, and were only informed the night before the shoot that our services were no longer required, as they had too many bloggers, which smacked of poor planning!  Only recently did I hear that the same ‘honour’ was bestowed upon very active and highly regarded Food Bloggers Nina Timm, Jane-Anne Hobbs, and Anel Potgieter.  Andy Fenner Tweeted at the time: ‘‘I get invited to be on a local TV food show, I ask about provenance of the meat. I get uninvited!’  I was the only one of the uninvited bloggers to be invited to a Media Day at Nederburg shortly after last night’s episode was filmed.

Even more interesting was reading up about each of the ‘Food Bloggers’ chosen for the program, and one could not help think that M-Net tried to choose a politically correct ‘blogger’ mix, MasterChef 2 9 Bloggers group rather than choose credible food bloggers! :

*  The odd one out by far was Luvo Ntezo, the One&Only Cape Town sommelier, who does not blog at all, and about whom MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths’ Taste magazine wrote ‘While his cooking skills may leave something to be desired, head sommelier at One&Only Cape Town Luvo Ntezo comfortably inhabits the world of wine’!

*   Aubrey Ngcungama is an ‘Ambassador‘ for the One&Only Cape Town (one wonders why two staff from the hotel were chosen), and is known as having been a sharp and entertaining judge in ‘Dinner Divas‘ and participant in ‘Come Dine with Me South Africa’.  He writes the blog ‘Dinner with Aubs’, but has not blogged since 8 November 2011!  His wit in expressing his feedback, so well demonstrated on ‘Dinner Divas’, was not captured in last night’s episode at all. He was the only ‘blogger’ to be critical and to pick up the problems which the viewers had heard from the Finalists during their preparation.

*   The Gorgeous Gourmet blog is written by Candice Bresler, and she was a participant in MasterChef SA Season 1, not making it to the Nederburg kitchen, and in ‘Dinner Divas‘.  The blog focuses on a ‘Gorgeous blend of food, decor and lifestyle’.  Her relatively new blog does not reflect dates, but she appears to be a regular blogger.

*   Sam Linsell was the most heavyweight and professional blogger invited, and is the only writer to have published a cookbook.  Her Drizzle & Dip’ blog is characterised by beautiful styling (she is a stylist consultant) and photography. Her latest blogpost was published on Monday, and she blogs regularly.

*   Ishay Govender is very visible as a blogger, especially on Twitter, and tries to not offend. She travels regularly, and her Food and the Fabulous’ blog reflects this, with her recent trips to Provence and Vietnam reflected in her recent blogposts. She last posted on 5 July, and blogs regularly. She also writes for Mango Juice, and is a reviewer for Eat Out.  Last year she blogged for Woolworths’ Pantry which ran parallel to MasterChef SA Season 1 on the retailer’s website, and was found to have plagiarised a Dark chocolate soufflé recipe, without acknowledgement!

*   Fritz Brand writes the ‘Real Men can Cook’ blog, and cannot be called a blogger, only posting one blogpost every 2 – 3 months! Last year he also wrote for Woolworths’ Pantry, and was criticised for his extreme use of salt in his Nutella Crepe recipe, clearly an error.

*   Nomi Matlala writesNom Nom Nomi’ blog, which she writes at extremely irregular intervals of up to once in four months. She last posted on 12 June, and her posts are usually one paragraph short!  She is a Meal Solutions Marketing and Digital consultant for Knorr.

*   Thando Moleketi writes ‘Jozi Foodie Fix’ blog, and last blogged on Monday. She blogs every three days or so.  She is a freelance foodwriter, has written for Woolworths’ Pantry for MasterChef Season 2, and is a restaurant reviewer for Eat Out 2013.

*   Andrew Lieber loves MasterChef SA and is a prolific writer about the reality TV show, as well as about other food shows such as ‘Ultimate Braai Master‘ and ‘Dinner Divas‘. He was a judge on ‘Dinner Divas’.  His Gourmet Guys‘ blog is commercial and professional, generating a lot of food content, and he describes it as ‘South Africa’s Internet Food Newspaper, Magazine and Blog‘.

*   Thuli Gogela (M-Net incorrectly writes it as ‘Gogeli’, having demonstrated its writer’s poor spelling skills in last week’s episode too), is from Cape Town, and is a product developer.  In Taste magazine she is described as follows: ‘Self-styled “modern-traditional” woman Thuli Gogela is the foodie behind Mzansi Style Cuisine where she showcases ancient culinary treasures from South Africa’s past’.  She last blogged on 5 July, and blogs very frequently.

The Blue team won by two votes, and their reward is a MasterClass with Chef Chris Erasmus at Pierneef á La Motte tonight.  The Red team will go into an elimination test tonight.  Disappointing was that the judges’ evaluation of the pizzas was not expressed.

M-Net, and with it MasterChef SA, lost credibility for a messy and disappointing episode last night. The food trucks were not pizza suppliers, the ‘food bloggers’ barely blog, and the Camps Bay location was inappropriate for filming in the South Easter, despite the most beautiful location, and did not help to project the ‘bloggers’ at their best.  The ‘bloggers’ disappointed in not being critical, wanting to please and be nice, with the exception of Aubrey. If political correctness is what is driving MasterChef SA Season 2, then it is worrying how future elimination decisions will be made!

For an overview of what is lying ahead for the rest of Season 2 read here. For behind the scenes information on the filming of Season 2 in January read here.  For an overview of episode 1 of Season 2 read here. For an overview of episode 2 of Season 2 read here, for episode 3 read herefor episode 4 here, episode 5 here,  episode 6 here, episode 7  and episode 8 here.  Enter our competitions, to predict the Finalist who will be eliminated in the next Pressure Test, and which Finalist will win MasterChef SA Season 2.

POSTSCRIPT 28/7: At the launch lunch yesterday of Kobus Mulder’s ‘Cheeses of South Africa‘ at Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, sommelier Luvo and I had a good laugh about his newly acquired ‘blogger‘ status bestowed upon him by MasterChef SA.  He said that we had missed nothing, as they had to sit at the shoot location for 12 hours in extreme heat and southeaster!

MasterChef SA Season 2. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 19h30 – 20h30.  www.masterchefsa.dstv.co  Twitter: @MasterChef_SA.  Some photographs from the MasterChef SA website.

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