It was the first episode in the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg in episode 3 last night, and it was much easier to follow the action of the twelve finalists, who had to deal with a Proudly South African Mystery Box. Roxi Wardman was the creator of the winning dish, and jetted off to Ireland, while Phila Vilakazi, Ndumiso Mncwabe, and Melissa Sutherland were in the bottom three, their dishes putting them into the Pressure Test next week in episode 4.
The brief to the twelve finalists was to use any of the ingredients in the Mystery Box, which were only revealed after the first commercial break, keeping the tension high. The Mystery Box included South African favourites such as Ouma rusks, Pecks Anchovette paste, Oros, spinach, butternut, Colman’s mustard, Lucky Star pilchards, ostrich, Cremora, Illovo golden syrup, Black Cat peanut butter, flour, chocolate, Maltabella, Mrs Balls chutney, Melrose cheese, and more, collectively described as creating ‘nostalgic foods and memories’. The use of Nederburg Winemakers Reserve Pinotage was mandatory. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood told the finalists that Pinotage is a cultivar unique to South Africa. The time limit to create a ‘South African Masterpiece’ was set at 45 minutes.
As each finalist spoke to the camera, to share what dish would be prepared, we got to know a little more about each contestant. With only one meat type, it was inevitable that most of the dishes were ostrich-based.
Penny Fitchet told us that she is a teacher in Durban, but has lived in the UK, and must have been used to enjoying South African foods there, being so far away. Her father is Mauritian, and this stimulated her love for Asian food. Her dream is to open a restaurant. She created a curry dish with pilchards, made butternut and spinach fritters, wors, and used the Anchovette paste too. Chef Pete liked the balance of her dish, and that one could taste each of the elements. Judge Reuben Robertsons Riffel praised her tempura sardines, saying they could be even better than those prepared by his mother, huge praise indeed!
Roxi Wardman made a butternut and peanut butter tart with a chocolate Pinotage syrup, using her left-hand to stir the ingredients, demonstrating that we can expect great creativity from her. Other ingredients that went into her dish were syrup, eggs, chocolate, and peanut butter, as well as Ouma rusks for the crust, a dish she had never made before, she said. She works as an assistant train driver, not looking half as glamorous in her job as on the MasterChef SA set, and said that she dreams of having her own bakery one day, dreaming about food while she is at work. The way Chef Pete evaluated her dish, with an ad break in-between, made it sound as if it was the absolute pits, saying that there was ‘no chance in hell’ that it could work with so many ingredients, until he said that it is …’magnificent‘ and ‘superb’! Riffel added that to make a tart work with so many flavours and textures is a ‘skill which does not sit with everyone‘.
Francois Zietsman made ostrich fillet covered with a crust made from Ouma rusk crumbs. Chef Pete described it as a tasty dish, but found the ostrich to be overcooked.
Ndumiso Mncwabe said that rusks remind him of his grandmother’s house. He prepared an ostrich stew, served with butternut and mealies. He told the camera that he was wondering ‘what I am doing here’, telling viewers that he is an entrepreneur, running his own mobile bar service. He assured us that he can cook, and that he is very competitive. In preparing his dish, he admitted that his timing was off, and felt that he ‘was not inventive enough‘. Ndumiso had marinated his ostrich with the Pinotage. Chef Benny Masekwameng said it is risky to make a stew with ostrich, as it can dry out, as it makes you ‘chew and chew and chew‘! Riffel added that ‘anyone can cook like this‘, his dish not being of MasterChef quality nor inventive enough.
Melissa Sutherland seems doomed to not win MasterChef SA Season 3, not drinking wine, given that one of the prizes is likely to be a Sommelier course and a unique winetasting with Nederburg winemaker Razvan Macici, who temperamentally smashes wine glasses onto the floor when the wine he tastes in the cellar does not meet his standard of excellence, reflecting how passionate he is in making the wines, in the new Nederburg TV commercial! Mel planned to make a butternut gnocchi with wors. Chef Pete tried her sauce, and pulled such a face that one knew that it was dreadful. He said it was too sweet, which Mel rectified with anchovy paste (gross!) and stock! Her gnocchi was judged to be tough and floury by Riffel, lacking flavour and texture. Chef Benny added that there were too many crumbs (as soil) on the plate.
Phila Vilakazi wanted to make ostrich fillet basted with mustard. His sauce was a red wine and Oros reduction (no matter how dreadful it sounds)! He rested his fillet for a short while, making sure to cook it rare. Riffel criticised the dish for being overcooked, and that there was no acidity in the sauce.
Claire Allen also used Ouma rusk crumbs for her ostrich steak, with a spinach Béchamel sauce, and sweetcorn fritters. Chef Benny liked her sauce and ostrich, but the fritter was too ‘heavy and doughy‘. She was disappointed with the feedback, saying that she would be ‘embarrassed if I had to go into the Pressure Test’, luckily for her being spared it.
Sipho Mdlankomo was described as being proof that she is ‘bigger (she is tiny) than just a home cook‘ . She made sweetcorn parcels using the corn husks, wrapping them in aluminium foil. Her dish was the first to be evaluated by the judges, and she had to admit that she had never eaten ostrich before, not even tasting her dish before presenting it to the judges, which could have counted against her. She was asked how she could judge if her dish was good enough, and she said that ‘I trust my instinct‘. Chef Pete praised the dish, saying it was properly cooked, and that he liked the tomato and corn combination.
Ian Young also combined sweetcorn and ostrich. He was worried about his seasoning when he presented his dish to the judges, having run out of time for this. In evaluating his dish, Riffel said that it was too sweet, the ostrich was tough, and the dish too lightly seasoned.
Abigail Mbalo made pap, but made with butternut and Maltabella, and wors, served with an onion and red wine reduction. Chef Benny praised the dish as being a clever idea, and a ‘true South African taste‘.
Philippa Robinson was introduced as liking to ‘cook with people and not for people’, and that she wants to improve the lives of others. She made a boerewors pie, using the Pinotage, butter, nutmeg, onions, and cinnamon. Chef Benny praised her pastry, being light and crunchy, but the filling was too dry, he said.
Refilwe Tselanyane made her dish of wors and pumpkin as a ‘memory to her mum‘, but adding her own creativity. She made a Béchamel sauce, and added flatbreads to her dish. She plated the ingredients inside the butternut half. Her sauce was too thick by adding butternut to it too, Chef Benny saying that it had not been necessary.
The judges were whispering amongst themselves, and again it’s difficult to understand them when they talk so softly. They discussed Roxi’s tart as being ambitious in the restricted time available; and that Phila was in trouble time-wise because he had not even opened his bottle of wine. After tasting all the dishes, Chef Pete said that it was the best first day in the MasterChef SA kitchen of the three seasons evaluated. Roxi, Penny, and Sipho were singled out for their excellent dishes, but it was clear from the praise heaped upon Roxi’s tart that she would win the best dish and would be sent to Dublin immediately from the MasterChef SA kitchen. Next week we will see Roxi eat at Michelin star Chef Kevin Thornton’s Thornton restaurant in the Fitzwilliam hotel in Dublin, regarded as Ireland’s best restaurant! Roxi had never left the country before, saying that she had never even been to Cape Town before!
The worst three dishes were those by Ndumiso, Phila, and Mel, and they will be going into the Pressure Test in episode 4. There was great excitement when a ‘MasterChef’ was introduced to the three finalists, in the preview we were shown, meaning that they will have to replicate this chef’s dish! Perhaps this could be Deena Naidoo, winner of MasterChef Season 1, or Kamini Pather, winner of Season 2!
Riffel looked very uncomfortable in his blue shirt, baby blue jacket, grey trousers, and grey shoes (cringe). Chef Pete looks debonair with his hat and black outfit, while Chef Benny always seems happy in his grey jacket.
For an overview of MasterChef Season 3 read here, and read here too. For a summary of episode 1 of Season 3 at Bootcamp 1 read here, and of episode 2 read here. For the Twitter handles of the Top 12 finalists, click here.
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards, usually posted on Fridays, will be posted on Saturdays until late December, to allow the write-ups of each of the 18 episodes of MasterChef SA Season 3 to be posted the day after the episode.
MasterChef SA Season 3, M-Net. www.masterchefsa.dstv.co.za Twitter: @MasterChef_SA Thursdays at 19h30.