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