Shannon Smuts from Cape Town was the first MasterChef SA Season 2 Finalist to have been eliminated in a complicated warthog Pressure Test, and the bouncy and bubbly contestant was missed for her quirky interviews in between the cooking action. Feeling that she had to prove herself, she was motivated to make a dream come true, which was to open her own restaurant Pure Good, which is a mere two weeks old. True to its name, it is health-orientated, its signage promising ‘healthy food/happy people’.
Shannon is very health conscious, and her first challenge after the MasterChef SA elimination, which was a knock due to the suddenness of it and the ‘demoralising’ immediate departure from the MasterChef SA kitchen without the opportunity to say goodbye to her fellow contestants, was to participate in a half Ironman in East London. She was working for Associated Magazines at the time, as a graphic designer for Good Housekeeping, and heard that the owner of Carlucci’s was looking to sell all three his local restaurant/delis, one of them being on the ground floor of her employer’s building. She took over their lease, and bought their equipment, painted the interior white to give it a fresh look after its dreary grey interior, and chose a lime zest colour to reflect that her restaurant is all about freshness and health. The colour is reflected in the counter, in the table legs and chairs, the waiters’ aprons, and the menu. A shelf reflects her green theme, in displaying baskets, and gardening boots and tools. Elsewhere some boots served as ‘vases’ for flowers. A glass vase near the counter had an unusual display of lilies with lemons. A fridge displays salads, fruit salad, and other take-away food items, as well as colddrinks and mineral water.
One places the order with Shannon at the counter, and initially it appeared that the items on the blackboard were all there was to order, but a menu arrived at the table a little later, and contains a further listing of breakfast items, ranging from R 25 for fruit salad, to which one can add further ingredients, each individually priced, to R28 for the egg dishes. One can order toasted sandwiches, salads, and wraps at R25, juices at R15, smoothies at R20 – R25, and a range of organic herbal teas at R20. The sugar sticks reveal that they serve Origin coffee, and there was no problem getting a dry cappuccino made perfectly, the Origin baristas usually serving them flat. Shannon took over the Carlucci’s staff, and appears to have a good relationship with them. She was offering a Beetroot and feta soup as a special meal at R20, while I ordered the Chicken schnitzel at R35, which was a small portion of meat and a healthy portion of salad made with tomato, lettuce, cucumber, green and red peppers, seeds, and sprouts, which come from her sprout garden in the restaurant. She gets spinach, parsley, and beetroot from the Baphumelele NGO Rosie’s House of Hope in Philippi, which Pam Golding has helped find and facilitate the purchase of and has donated furniture and furnishings, and at which a vegetable garden has been established.
Shannon came to chat, and it felt like we were old friends, even though we had never met, having only interacted on Twitter while she was a contestant. She told me afterwards that she was petrified initially when I introduced myself, but it did not show, and I left with a hug. She explained that Carlucci’s was poorly run and expensive, and that the magazine staff in the building walked four blocks down the road to grab lunch. Now that she has opened, and given that she knows many of the 170 staff in the building, previously colleagues, they are coming to eat at Pure Good, and she offers a delivery service for her meals, which a staff member drops off at the desks of the staff upstairs. It was clear that Shannon was a popular colleague, from the tremendous Twitter support she received while she was still on the show. Her parents have been a great support, and her mother Debbie, a guest house owner in Simonstown, was there too, and came to chat.
We spoke a lot about MasterChef SA, and the great relationship that had built up between the contestants from the audition stage already, with Jason Steel whom she met initially at the auditions, and who appears shy but blossoms when he speaks about food. He is now a waiter at The Test Kitchen, having worked at La Colombe prior to his participation in MasterChef SA. She bonded with Ozzy Osman when he visited Cape Town before they went to Nederburg and whom she described as being much more outgoing than projected on TV, and Kamini Pather, who was her room mate for the time that she was in the show and for whom she has great admiration for her food knowledge and calmness, no matter what the challenge is. She highlighted that Tiron Eloff is a dark horse one should not ignore. We talked about nasty comments on MasterChef SA’s Facebook page, which she had experienced some of when she was eliminated, and which had upset Sanet Labuschagne badly when she was eliminated, with really nasty comments about her weight. The Finalists had been briefed about how their lives would change, how they would be in the public eye, and therefore also subject to criticism. She had not been prepared for the harshness of being ‘banished’ from the set the minute she was eliminated, she said. The tension is severe, and many of the Finalists smoked to be able to deal with it. She liked the judges, and Chef Andrew Atkinson in particular. The Finalists reunited for the filming of the Final episode, and more recently for a media function in Johannesburg. They meet again for the screening of the last episode of Season 2 and the prize handover on 11 September. She has connected with Zahir Mohamed, owner of Baked Bistro in Bakoven and who fell out at the potato peeling challenge, and he has been to visit Pure Good, and has shared experiences and offered advice. Shannon has changed her hairstyle, one half of her hair being cut very short, and the other half long as it was on the show. She wore distinctive specs in the show but did not wear them yesterday.
Pure Good is healthy inexpensive eating, with personal hands-on attention from bubbly Shannon herself, requesting feedback so that she can improve, and she is not afraid to ask for it. Parking is difficult to find outside the restaurant, but one may get lucky close by. The menu is changing on Monday, containing a few spelling errors, and will reflect more of what her customers like best from her initial menu, being the healthy items she has offered up to now. With Shannon’s goal-orientation, it won’t be a surprise if she meets her goal to open a Pure Good in Johannesburg within the next year. She is also planning an internet-order office delivery service in Cape Town. It is her mission to get Cape Town business persons to eat more healthy lunches. A liquor licence application will come.
POSTSCRIPT 29/7: Shannon e-mailed her new menu today, and all typing errors have been corrected.
Pure Good, 21 St John’s Street, Gardens, Cape Town. Tel (021) 461-3818. No website but there is a Facebook page. Twitter: @PureGoodSA Monday – Friday 7h00 – 17h00 in winter, 7h00 – 18h00 in summer. Will be open some nights for dinner in future.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage