What a diverse and controversial episode 10 was last night, generating many emotions at different levels, as well as criticism of M-Net and MasterChef SA on Twitter for the first time since the commencement of Season 2. There was little that was judged to be favourable in the episode:
The losing Red Team (Joani Mitchell, Karen Els, Khumo Twala, Jason Steel, Leandri van der Wat, and Neil Lowe) from Tuesday evening had to go into the ‘Spice’ Test when they lost the Pizza Challenge by two points. Robertsons ‘Spices’ were the focus point of the Test, annoying viewers for such strong blatant branding of the sponsors’ products, in addition to being subjected to so many TV commercials, especially relative to Season 1. The criticism was two-fold:
* Herbs and spices are two different things, yet the contestants had to guess which combination of Robertsons ‘spices’ had been used in a number of dishes they could smell and taste (the company advertises spice and herb combinations), according to the judges’ brief, yet they had both herbs and spices to evaluate, including in a tomato dish, and in caramelised butternut. Chef Andrew Atkinson said that one’s tastebuds must be attuned to seasoning, so that one can change or enhance a dish’s flavour profile.
* No serious chefs would use Robertsons spices in their kitchens (except Chef Reuben Riffel of course, who endorses the brand and appears in its advertisements!), as ‘fresh is best’, the trend in restaurant and home cooking!
Pig-headed at Pierneef à La Motte
The Pizza Challenge winning Blue Team was driven to Pierneef à La Motte in Franschhoek, to attend a MasterClass with Chef Chris Erasmus, which he conducted in his open-plan kitchen. Chef Chris said that his focus is ‘from garden to plate’, and that he is grateful to have grown up in the Karoo, having learnt how to ‘butcher’ from his father and how to preserve foods from his mother. Chef Chris showed the Finalists his salad made from freshly foraged herbs and vegetables from the impressive La Motte vegetable garden. He then proceeded to demonstrate the making of a terrine, using the full pig’s head of Beulah, as he called her. M-Net must have expected criticism, and ran a subtitled warning in the episode that it ‘might offend sensitive viewers‘! Chef Chris used sweet wine in cooking carrots with vinegar. Seline van der Wat enjoyed her visit so much that Chef Chris was elevated to her new favourite chef. It was the first time ever on MasterChef SA that a viewer could make a dish just by watching it, Chef Chris’ instructions on how to make the terrine being easy to follow. This part of the episode was love or hate for the restaurant, the criticism being as follows:
* The whole pig’s head was seen to be unappetizing and off-putting, and some Tweeters wrote that they would never go to the restaurant as a result. Others wrote that those that want to become chefs must deal with seeing all parts of an animal, as ‘Top to Tail’ is a sustainable food preparation trend. Many were impressed with Chef Chris and the restaurant.
* Even worse was the timing of last night’s episode, just as Ramadan has started, despite it having been filmed at the end of January, given that Finalist Ozzy Osman is Moslem, and was part of the Blue team attending the MasterClass. He and a few others went green at the gills. Added to that was Chef Chris cooking with wine, a no-no combination for Ozzy, it was felt!
* Even though the viewers did not see the La Motte vegetable and herb garden, the Blue Team was shown the garden, according to Seline’s Tweet last night. This of course was a further irony of the episode last night, in that it demonstrated the use of fresh herbs and vegetables, as opposed to the focus on Robertsons spices earlier in the episode!
Karen, Neil, and Jason were the bottom three of the team of seven in the ‘Spice’ Test, and had to go into the Pressure Test. Their challenge was to replicate Chef Pete Goffe-Wood’s white stumpnose on fennel and saffron risotto, served with a Nicoise salad and dressing, which includes anchovies, capers, tomato, olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar, and fennel. Karen gave it her all, feeling comfortable in cooking fish, and she filleted it perfectly to cheers from her Finalist colleagues watching from above. Chef Pete gave her support during the preparation, praising the quality of her food to date. Jason had never prepared risotto, and was nervous about making it. He is known as the ‘Fish Guy’, so that part of the challenge was easy, including the filleting. Neil said that he had only made risotto once before, and that it ‘was bad‘! He had mixed feelings about his dish, saying it lacked presentation finesse, and said that he did not want to go home already. But the judges thought otherwise, and Neil was eliminated, his risotto portion being too big, it did not have depth, it was dull, and it was not seasoned (ironic, just after they had come out of the ‘Spice’ Test!). Neil said he was ‘gutted’ to be leaving, and added that MasterChef SA ‘ is emotionally intense but exhilirating’! Controversial was the following:
* That Neil Lowe had to go home. While the decision was not felt to be unfair, Neil was an interesting character, coming across as somewhat arrogant initially, quoting Modernist Cuisine while he did the Hot Audition, which could have been a switch off to the judges. It soon became clear that Neil rates his cooking skills (as do some bloggers who praised his skills on Twitter last night), but that he was unable to make fundamental dishes such as the risotto and hollandaise sauce, which had driven him into a previous Pressure Test. Many viewers would have liked to see more of him in the show.
* Horror of horrors is that White Stumpnose appears on SASSI’s (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) Orange list, not ideal, as only Green fish should be used. Even more ironic is that Chef Pete often works with SASSI to promote the use of Green fish varieties. Even worse is that SASSI and the use of sustainable seafood, a big drive of MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths, was not even mentioned nor did Woolworths advertise its focus on this, as it did in Season 1 during the Paternoster Seafood episode.
A number of Tweeters felt that the Pressure Test was a relatively easy one last night. It will be interesting to see where MasterChef SA Season 2 will go in the next 8 weeks, pasta appearing to be on the menu next Tuesday.
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 here, for episode 4 here, episode 5 here, episode 6 here, episode 7 , episode 8 here, and episode 9 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 11/7: One senses Neil Lowe’s disdain that he was caught short in the Spice Test, and that he would NEVER have Robertsons or any other bottled spices in his kitchen, in this exit interview with N-Net!
POSTSCRIPT 14/7: M-Net must have anticipated the criticism about the use of a pig’s head in the making of a terrine (it was a five hour MasterClass Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef à La Motte told us last night, and he cannot believe the number of Social Media hits he has received as a result of the episode), and has issued media statements, the first to emphasise that Finalist Ozzy Osmond, has only been given Halaal meat to cook with in the MasterChef kitchen, and has not had to use alcohol in the cooking challenges, out of respect for his Muslim religion. The second media statement addresses the Pierneef à La Motte MasterClass using pork, and it confirms that Ozzy was served a halaal dish for lunch.
POSTSCRIPT 19/7: Yesterday The Times ran a story critical of M-Net not providing Ozzy Osman with halaal meat when he used tongue in his dish for episode 11 of MasterChef on Tuesday evening.
POSTSCRIPT 19/7: MasterChef Australia is battling with the same issue, in that a Muslim Finalist had to cook a pork dish!
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