On Thursday evening I attended the launch of hand-crafted Beluga Noble Russian vodka at the noble Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town. The Russian Consul-General in Cape Town described Beluga as ‘the best and the most popular‘ vodka in Russia! Continue reading →
Last night I attended an interesting talk on ‘The Great White Shark: a Global Perspective’, given by shark expert and Apex eco-tour operator Chris Fallows at the One&Only Cape Town. Chris’ talk covered the three key seal areas attracting Great White Sharks in South Africa, as well as other well-known shark areas in the world.
I was invited by Ian Manley, the hotel’s PR consultant, to Chris’ talk, one of two (the second will focus on the relationship between Orca killer whales and Great White Sharks tonight), in a series of Guest Speaker Talks, which include Joanne Lifson on 18 June on ‘Lights Canine Action’, Colin Bell speaking on rhino extinction on 3 July, ‘Africa’s Three Big Cats‘ by Lorne Sulcas on 15 July, and more. One&Only Cape Town ambassador Aubrey Ngcungama introduced Chris, who has documented his shark adventures in his book ‘Great White: The Majesty of Sharks‘, and who has filmed documentaries about the Great White Shark with Discovery Channel, the BBC’s Planet Earth, and National Geographic. In the hotel reception area, a shark cage with diver, as well as a model of a small shark, were set up to attract attention to the talks programme.
Prior to the start of the talk Chris and I chatted, and he explained that Orcas, known as ‘killer whales‘, are not whales at all, but are members of the dolphin family. Orcas are known to kill whales, by pushing them under water and making them drown. In South Africa Great White Sharks can be found where there are concentrations of seals, in three regions: Continue reading →
The Wordsworth launch lunch of Agri-Expo Dairy Manager Kobus Mulder’s book ‘Cheeses of South Africa’ at Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town yesterday was most enjoyable, with great company, good food and wine, a charming hotel ambassador, and entertaining author/speaker.
Gorry Bowes-Taylor has been organising book launch lunches for Wordsworth for years, and will be a comedian in a next life, not being the most diplomatic lunch hostess, but is loved for making her guests laugh, and for finding new venues at which to hold the book launches. As I have written before, the lunches have a cult following by some of her regulars, who are not really interested in the subject of the book or the author, but who find value in the R225 three course launch lunch, excellent quality wines, the chance of making new friends at the table, the chance of winning a prize in the lucky draw, and for being entertained by Gorry and the author/speaker. She did not disappoint with her lunch organisation yesterday. Wordsworth sets up a table to sell the discounted launch book at such a function. Continue reading →
Last 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. Continue reading →
Today an exciting new reality TV series starts airing on SABC2 at 8h30, which will do for food blogging locally what the release of the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ did internationally three years ago. ‘Dinner Divas’ is a 13-part series with 12 contestant Food Bloggers, vying for the title of the Ultimate Dinner Diva 2012, with prizes to the value of close to R100000. It is the first food blogger TV series cook-off in the world.
2 Blonds and a Redhead Filming Producer Anne Myers is a Diva in her own right, having produced many programmes and Advertising Funded Programmes (AFPs) for SABC2 and SABC3 over the past 27 years, the latter being televised credible advertorials for sponsor brands. Myers had watched MasterChef SA, and found that it had many deficiencies, given her production experience, and therefore devised the unique ‘Dinner Divas’ concept, signing up sponsors, contracted with SABC2, invited food personalities as judges, and used Social Media to find 12 suitable food bloggers, the majority being from Cape Town. The shoot took place at Kitchen Cowboys, which belongs to MasterChef SA Judge Pete Goffe-Wood.
The twelve Food Bloggers are Anel Potgieter (‘Life is a Zoo Biscuit‘ Blog), Barry Gerber (‘What’s Cooking’ Blog), Candice Le Noury (‘Gorgeous Gourmet’ Blog), Janice Tripepi (‘janicetripepi‘ Blog), Kate Liquorish ‘undomestiKATEd’ Blog), Kristy Snell (‘FoodMonger‘ Blog), Nina Timm (‘My Easy Cooking’ Blog), Sue Green (‘Sous Chef’ Blog), Tami Magnin (‘Rumtumtiggs’ Blog), Thuli Gogela (‘Mzansi Style Cuisine’ Blog), Usha Singh (‘Healthy Vegetarian Foods’ Blog), and Zirkie Schroeder (‘PinkPolkaDotFood’ Blog). Both Anel and Candice entered MasterChef SA, and did not make the Nederburg kitchen. Anel shared that not making it on MasterChef SA had triggered off a depression, which she tried to get out of by eating Zoo biscuits, and led to her creating her Blog as a type of therapy. Initially she and Candice (photograph left) were hesitant about participating on ‘Dinner Divas’, given the stress they experienced at MasterChef SA, which had taken the fun out of food making, but they loved the fun of ‘Divine Divas’. Janice shared that participating in ‘Dinner Divas’ had led her to relook her Blog, and to ‘make it even more perfect’. She raised the question many Bloggers ask: ‘Who is reading my Blog?’. Candice said that ‘Divine Divas’ had re-inspired her to become a better cook and blogger. Anel blogs once a week on average, and said that it takes up to ten hours to write a Blogpost, having to research a story, buy the ingredients, prepare the dish, and photograph it (good light is best when she gets up early in the morning) before work, or over weekends. Barry shared that his Afrikaans Blog ‘Wat Eet Ons?’ became more English, to attract more readers. MasterChef SA Finalist Lungi Nhanhla was present at the launch, in her capacity of new deputy Food Editor of Drum, and she shared that things were much more controlled on MasterChef SA, given that it is a franchised programme series.
In introducing the programme at the media launch on Thursday, Producer Michelle Coleman said that ‘Dinner Divas’ recognises the best Food Blogger and not necessarily the best cook amongst the twelve finalists.
The Food Bloggers were evaluated by five judges (chairman of the judging panel Aubrey Ngcungama is the ambassador of the One & Only Cape Town, was on ‘Come Dine with Me’, and is an absolute hoot from the first episode we were shown at the launch, more than a Diva himself!) over the series, but only three per show. The judges of the first episode are Aubrey, Leila Padayachi (pastry chef), and Caro de Waal, editor of Food24, and they evaluate the meals of the Divas without knowing who prepared the recipes and cooked the food. The other judges used for the series are Chef Fernando Roman of the Five Rooms restaurant at The Alphen, and Andrew Lieber of ‘Gourmet Guys’ Blog.
The sponsors are Mr Price Home; Rhodes Foods (who make cheeses – such as the award-winning Portobello – under their own brand name and some for Woolworths, as well as canned jams, and tomato, fruit and vegetable products); Nulaid eggs, Sasko Flour; and Whirlpool kitchen appliances. Prizes for the winner of the Ultimate Dinner Diva 2012 title includes exposure for the winner’s Food Blog, as well as R50000 cash, a cookbook deal, vouchers of sponsors’ products, and R25000 worth of Whirlpool appliances.
In preparation of their appearance in the TV programme, each Food Blogger had to create a menu for a family weekend meal, with the recipes, and blog it in 100 words. On set the Food Bloggers had to cook their meal within 90 minutes, set the table for the judges, and style and present their dishes. The judges evaluated the dishes ‘anonymously’, on authenticity, originality, balance and nutritional value of the menu, seasonality of the produce, the reasonable cost of the menu, the creativity in blog writing, the styling of their food and the table setting, and the food preparation skills.
The first episode we saw showed only two of the twelve Food Bloggers competing against each other. Nina Timm prepared a most colourful Mexican family dish, which included meat balls, refried beans, guacamole, and healthy tacos, a meal which she described as a ‘maaltyd om te eet’, and as ‘fingerfood’; while Kristy Snell made fillet steak and her mom’s Peach and Almond baked pudding. Aubrey will be remembered as the most direct and honest judge, who does not put across his opinions diplomatically at all, making for fun TV. He was critical of Nina’s dish being too salty, while Kristy was not spared, Aubrey describing her salad as ‘a bit tired’, the sauces being confusing, and her dish being an ‘unexciting concoction‘. Yet both Nina and Kristy went through into the Semi-Finals.
Filmed in Cape Town, the first episode we saw had beautiful shots of Cape Town, which will benefit tourism to our city too, with the TV series’ national viewership. Seeing the first episode, the comparison to MasterChef SA was immediate. Only focusing on two contestants per episode, means that one can get to know each Food Blogger better, and the pace was much slower, allowing one to understand how the dish was made, and pick up some cooking tips, proving to be far more educational than MasterChef SA.
‘Dinner Divas’ plays an important role in enhancing the contribution of South African Food Blogs, which will have a stronger voice via the new TV series, and which are already characterised by their passion and inspiration. Food Bloggers’ success already is evident by the increasing number of cookbooks being launched by them. It was emphasised that the days of print media are numbered, and that Food Bloggers are taking over. Season 2 has already been committed too by the SABC, it was announced at the launch, being a winning recipe for the programme sponsors, SABC2 viewers, and Food Bloggers!
POSTSCRIPT 20/10: Episode 2 surprised this morning, in two respects: Judge Fernando Roman, Executive Chef from The Aphen hotel, offended bloggers when he said outright that he does ‘not fancy bloggers at all’, ironic as ‘Dinner Divas’ is a TV programme about bloggers cooking their recipes! Not surprisingly, this caused a flurry of Tweets from critical bloggers, sure to avoid the hotel’s Five Rooms and La Belle restaurants! In addition, contestant Sue Green cooked a pork dish, but judge Leila Padayachi does not eat pork! However, Sue still made it into the semi-finals. Tami Magnin’s KFC-style chicken dish was dished by judge Aubrey, describing it as ‘boring to look at’ and as ‘inedible’!
POSTSCRIPT 5/1: Anel Potgieter has won season 1 of Dinner Divas.
Dinner Divas, SABC2, Saturdays, 8h30, from 13 October, for 13 weeks. www.ilovecooking.co.za Twitter @DinnerDivas1
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
A large part of the filming of the ‘Spud’ movie sequel ‘Spud – The Madness Continues‘ was done in Cape Town, even though the school featured in the books is Michaelhouse in KwaZulu-Natal. The new movie, which is to be released next year, promises to be as successful internationally as its predecessor was, not least because of its famous comedy star John Cleese. Filming for the movie was completed last week, co-inciding with the launch of author John van de Ruit’s fourth and final ‘Spud’ book, he has announced.
First published in 2005 by Van de Ruit as a biographical reflection of his life at one of the finest boarding schools in the country, the ‘Spud’ books describe boarding school life from a boy’s perspective. Van de Ruit related that he is very similar to the ‘Spud’-nicknamed main character John Milton, played by Troye Sivan: ‘He’s my soul, I suppose, a recreation of my youth, but this doesn’t mean that everything is true’. He admits that many of the characters were modelled on his family members. Van de Ruit’s father was an important inspiration for his writing, and also was the model for Spud’s father in the books. But he did admit that he is an ‘exaggerator’, always adding ‘my 10 percent to make it funnier, punchier’.
The first ‘Spud’ movie received interest from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Scandinavian countries, Turkey, and the Middle East, and this encouraged local investors to fund the sequel.
All the school scenes for this movie were shot at SACS in Newlands in Cape Town, the oldest school in the country. South African audiences will enjoy seeing comedian Rob van Vuuren, of ‘Corné and Twakkie’ fame, playing the role of compère of a hotdog eating competition, set at a Nottingham farm show in the Midlands, but shot at Tokai forest in Cape Town. Other than Cleese, and Sivan being South African born but living in Australia, the 115 crew, cast and extras are all from South Africa.
The Van de Ruit ‘Spud’ books have made him this country’s most successful author in terms of book sales, the first book selling 250000 copies alone, and it has not gone out of print in the past seven years. More than 500000 copies of the three books have been sold to date. The first movie not only became successful due to actor John Cleese playing teacher and cricket coach‘The Guv’, but also because of the criticism of Cleese’s character by Judge Edwin Cameron. The movie grossed R17 million, reports The Mercury.
Van de Ruit released his fourth and final Spud book ‘Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear’ in Johannesburg last week, reported the Cape Argus. He wrote one book per year of his life at Michaelhouse. His first book was about the coming of age, the second about rebellion, the third about boy politics, and the newest one is about awakening, writes the Weekend Argus. His father passed away while the last book was written, and writing helped him ‘process(ing) the grief’. It is unknown whether any further films are planned of the last two Spud books.
Given the success of the three ‘Spud’ books and the first movie, ‘Spud – The Madness Continues’ can only continue to bring more fame for Van de Ruit. Van de Ruit is launching his new book at Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town on 13 August, at a dinner attended by another Michaelhouse old boy Aubrey Ngcungama, now a freelance chef. The cost to attend is R275.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage