After a few weeks of closure for a complete renovation and expansion of its facilities, the Grand Café & Beach has re-opened, ready for the summer season lying ahead. Yesterday a number of writers was invited by Manley Communications to experience the Grand, on a perfect sunny summer beach day. Continue reading →
MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have five more gripping episodes to look forward to in the next month. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 18.
We are also running a weekly lucky draw for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA every week. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 14 on Tuesday (19 June), Grande Provence has generously offered a 3-course restaurant voucher for two, to the value of R600, to the winner.
Darren Badenhorst is the new Executive Chef at Grande Provence. He left school in Durban to study marketing, but gave up after a year, because he realised that his passion lay in cooking. He enrolled at the Christina Martin School of Food and Wine, the most prominent culinary school in KwaZulu-Natal, where he did a one year intensive, ‘extremely strenuous’, diploma course. From there he went to the Benguerra Lodge in Mozambique as Executive Chef, but his stay was short-lived, having to evacuate the island after the worst ever cyclone to hit Africa destroyed most buildings on the island. He was appointed at Zimbali Boutique Hotel as Chef de Partie. He then moved to Eat Me Gourmet Café, a private contract catering company, and to Three Cities‘ One on One Events catering company, promoted to Executive Chef. Feeling that he had reached a glass ceiling, he moved to the Cape, and joined Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof. In this time he met Grande Provence Chef Darren Roberts at one of the magnificent Big Five Multiple Sclerosis charity lunches at which Waterkloof had participated. He started at Grande Provence over a year ago, and has taken over from Chef Darren Roberts, who has taken up an appointment in the Seychelles.
He sees the level of cuisine in the Cape to be far beyond that of any other region, and believes that competition between restaurants brings out the best in them, and is key to creating consistency. Flair and passion must show at all times. He admires Neil Jewell for his charcuterie, there being no comparison, and Chef Margot Janse from Le Quartier Français, for her creativity and experimentation with the food that she prepares. Chef Darren Badenhorst says that he will not change the menu drastically, sticking to the fine dining French cuisine with an Asian twist. The quality will be the same, but he will add his stamp to it. He has a small team of six in the kitchen, which will grow next summer. He lives on the Grande Provence farm, and loves his job, rarely taking time off. He likes to create dishes with balance, in texture and in colour. Coming from the Natal coast, he loves diving and spearfishing, and also therefore preparing seafood. His first new addition to the menu is a delicious soft shell crab starter on pan-fried sushi with sesame seed, with a soft boiled yolk presented in a beautifully crafted kataifi pastry, the colour coming from a red pepper aioli, and finished off with soya and wasabi pearls. His new Ballontine of Chicken with a bone marrow centre, truffle of pomme duchess, carrot and cardamom pureé, morel mushrooms, cracked black pepper, and fresh Japanese truffle, is an artistic portrait that could have been framed and hung in the Grande Provence Gallery!
Tweet your prediction of which of the 7 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or e-mail it to email@example.com. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 19 June at 19h30, at the start of episode 14. The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. There will be a weekly Restaurant Voucher prize draw per episode for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA, and voting for the following episode can start as soon as that day’s episode has been aired. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize is rolled over to go to another week.
POSTSCRIPT 19/6: There was no correct prediction that Ilse Nel would be sent home this evening. The Grande Provence prize will be rolled over to another week.
The Restaurant at Grande Provence, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8600. www.grandeprovence.co.za Twitter: @GrandeProvence Monday – Sunday Lunch, Monday – Saturday Dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.comTwitter:@WhaleCottage
Last night’s episode 13 of MasterChef South Africa was a spicy one, set on the spice islands of Zanzibar, and its strong colours of fruit, seafood, the ocean, and markets was a joy to watch. It was an action-packed episode, with the eight Finalists divided into two teams, and the losing team having to identity spices in their raw state. This brought Deena Naidoo and Thys Hattingh into the Pressure Test, and sadly Thys had to leave the MasterChef SA kitchen. A queasy Khaya Silingele announced her pregnancy.
A traditional Zanzibar box with red and blue nails was the means whereby the Finalists were divided into the Red and Blue Team. The Red team appeared led by Ilse Nel, and she had an all-girl team of Khaya, Lungi Nhlanhla, and Manisha Naidu. The Blue team seemed led by Sue-Ann Allen, with the ‘boys’ Thys, Deena, and Sarel Loots. They were shown a typical market stall of Fisherman George, and his table had shrimps, calamari, marlin, masala spices, tandoori prepared foods, coconut and garlic breads, corn and banana plantin, and more. The food is prepared on hot coals, and the colours are beautiful, said Sarel.
They were given the challenge to go to the historic Stone Town markets, to buy ingredients with 300000 Tanzanian shillings (just under R1600), and make dishes for 50 persons that would be bought by the public and tourists. The team which made the lesser amount of money would go into a spice identification test. The market was praised for being organised, the stalls having scales, which allowed for accurate measurement and charging, Khaya said. Sarel said that the visit to the markets had ‘accelerated my thinking about food, with its exotic spices’. They bought bananas and pineapples, but it was when Khaya went to the fish section of the market that the smells overcame her, and she had to leave, feeling queasy. Her Red team mates bought (yellow fin, qualified by Chef Pete Goffe-Wood) tuna, chicken, fillet, and squid, and decided to bake its own bread. They were confident about their ‘girl charm‘ making its magic, Ilse said. They set up stalls in the Forodhani Gardens night market. The Red team offered its customers chickpea falafel, tuna skewers, mango salsa and chapattis, coleslaw, squid in Zanzibar spices, and spicy mango chicken. The Blue team had a similar set of dishes in mind, mainly making kebabs and shawarmas. Sue-Ann said they did not want to make too much food, offering mango, watermelon slices, and corn fritters made by Thys. The Blue team also sold beef two ways with chapatti, tuna skewers, chicken Tikka, kebabs, and corn bread Sarel was the team’s marketer, calling the customers to their stall, while Khaya did the same for her Red team. The Blue Team increased the price of its shawarmas, as they sold so well, but in the end started discounting prices the closer it got to the 10 pm closing time, needing to sell all their food, and make the most money. The Red team sold juice, which Khaya made with a sugar cane machine, a tough job, copied by the Blue team, when it saw how popular the juice was. The Red team appeared to have the longer queue, and the customers said that they were ‘working hard‘. Both teams enjoyed the experience, and Manisha said that it was the ‘best challenge so far’. It was the Red team (218000 Tanzanian shillings) that beat the Blue team (74880 Tanzanian shillings) in its income.
The Blue Team had to identify Zanzibar spices in their raw form, and Deena seemed confident that he would do well. However, the spices looked quite different in their raw state. Vanilla and turmeric were correctly identified by all four, but the cloves were incorrectly identified by Deena and Thys, sending them into the Pressure Test. Chef Jussi Husa, a Swede who arrived in Zanzibar fifteen years ago, and from one of the top Zanzibar resorts Essque Zalu, showed the two Finalists his lightly smoked and cured swordfish sashimi with papaya and palm hearts, crispy seaweed, and squid ink aioli. They were given 70 minutes to replicate Chef Jussi’s dish.
Deena said that he had not smoked and cured food much, but that he wants to stay in the competition because of his love for food. He felt confident, and said he would give his best. The judges spoke about him, saying he knows and follows the process, and appeared calm. Deena praised MasterChef SA, in that ‘everyone gets an equal opportunity’. Deena acknowledged that correctly smoking and curing his fish was the most important, and that there would be ‘no room for recovery’ should he make a mistake. Talking amongst themselves, the judges noticed that he had not put the lid onto his smoker properly, which would oversmoke it, and he was distracted by focusing on the other elements of the dish. He asked sadly:“Is this the end, because I oversmoked it ?”. Deena looked worried when he presented his dish to the judges, and the judges were silent initially. Chef Andrew Atkinson said the salad was cut perfectly, and the belly cold smoked. Chef Benny Masekwameng said that for never having smoked or cured fish before he had ‘done a great job‘. Chef Pete was very critical, saying that he had overdone the smoking, taking away all its delicacy, and no flavour nuances or lemon could be tasted.
Thys said that he would give Deena a ‘good run for his money’. He warned himself to not overcook the fish. The judges felt that he looked more pressurised. Thys said that ‘only the best is good enough today’, but that it would be hard to do perfectly. When he cut his fish, Thys said that it had cooked through completely. When Thys presented his dish to the judges, he looked proud and confident. Chefs Benny and Andrew praised the dish, saying it resembled Chef Jussi’s ‘masterpiece’, ‘the squid is just right‘, and ‘the seaweed is nice and crispy‘. Chef Pete had a completely different view, saying that the fish was meant to be cold-smoked and not cooked. The papaya for the salad was meant to be cut into small strips, but looked as if done by ‘Edward Scissorhands‘, he added!
Thys was eliminated and sent home, but praised, being told: ‘you are rich’ and was told to ‘keep the dream going’. Thys responded by saying that he would ‘do this 100 times over’, he had enjoyed it so much.
POSTSCRIPT 13/6: In Chef Benny’s Sunday Times column last weekend, he wrote that he was disappointed that the ‘food did not live up to the spice capital of the continent. The food we ate had a mild flavour although they use a lot of the same spices we use in our cooking‘. He also wrote that he felt lucky to not have had to identify the spices in their natural form, as the Red Team had to! He praised Sarel for his knowledge of spices. He signalled out Bobotie as a typical South African dish with a mixture of spices giving it its unique flavour. He wrote that ‘spices are the foundation of the dish‘.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Episode 6 promised to be a spicy and heated one, the promotional video ahead of the program giving MasterChef South Africa fans a taste of Judge Pete Goffe-Wood’s dissatisfaction with the preparation of his favourite food, being curry. The filming was very colourful, with beautiful multi-coloured seafood curry dishes, followed by the rich orange of the salmon preparation. Finalist Lwazi Mngoma had to leave MasterChef SA last night.
To introduce the curry theme, Le Quartier Français Chef Vanie Padayachee from Franschhoek prepared her favourite Rendang curry, which the Finalists had to taste, and then were put to the test as to the spices which Chef Vanie had used, including Star Anise, peanut oil, and garlic. Finalist Samantha Nolan showed her cuisine strength, by correctly identifying the three ingredients, and was therefore allowed to choose the main ingredient of the curry dish to be prepared by all the Finalists, from a selection of duck, chick pea, tofu, lentils, or seafood, the latter being her choice. The three chef judges emphasised that the art of good curry-making lies in the ‘balance of flavours’, ‘in the flavour combinations’, and they said that it is ‘the mark of a great chef’. The outcome of the curry dish, to be prepared within 75 minutes, was made clear – the creators of the two best dishes would become the team leaders in episode 7, while those of the three worst dishes would go into the dreaded ‘Pressure Test’.
Most of the Finalists chose to make a prawn curry. Thys Hattingh had only cooked curry two or three times, being a dessert man, and was seen to add almost every spice possible. While Judge Benny Masekwameng felt that his Thai green prawn curry was ‘too busy’, Judge Andrew Atkinson said that it was ‘a gem, a treasure’. It was voted as the second best curry dish, ‘with exotic flavours, refreshing, and perfectly executed’. Ilse Nel was praised for her meal presentation (left), and Judge Andrew’s succint evaluation was ‘simply wow’. Samantha prepared a Madagascar prawn curry with star anise, while Sue-Anne Allen chose to make a yellowtail curry. Judge Andrew complimented her plating, but felt that she had not made the dish in line with the brief, only having a curry sauce on the side. ‘This is going to be a good one’, she had said prior to the judging. Sarel Loots had also rarely prepared prawn curry, but was up to the challenge, saying ‘let’s have fun, let’s do something crazy’. Judge Pete observed Sarel, and felt that he was throwing in too many spices. Sarel admitted to oversalting his prawns, and tried to balance this error with lemon juice and yoghurt. He said that the curry dish would ‘Titanic me’! His dish was judged to have‘too many things, all fighting for a place in the bowl, being impossible to eat’, and it would have been sent back in a restaurant. Lwazi Mngoma admitted to having a head cold, not being able to taste nor smell his dishes, adding atchar and parsley to his curry. Judge Pete asked him if he had tasted his dish, and he admitted to not having done so. Chef Pete told him to taste it again, and he admitted to a ‘taste of bitterness’. Chef Pete slated the dish, saying that it was ‘inedible’, and the prawns had not been cleaned nor cooked properly. He was sent to the ‘Pressure Test’ with harsh words from Chef Pete: ‘dude, this dish is disgusting’. Lungile Nhlanhla was very unsure of herself, saying that it was not her best attempt, that she should have had more sauce and sambals, and that she ‘could have done better‘. The judges said that she had done just fine. Deena Naidoo was judged to be the star curry master of all finalists, Judge Benny saying that he was taken back to his days in Durban, and that his curry dish demonstrated that ‘less is more’.
Chef Pete lost his cool, saying that he had looked forward so much to his favourite dish being prepared, and had never been so disappointed, that he ‘went to hell in a handbasket’, that he had seen better from Grade 10 cooks ‘than the garbage served today‘. He added that Judges Andrew and Benny had tempered his reaction, as he would have sent eight Finalists to the ‘Pressure Test’, had it depended on him! In the end it was Lwazi, Sue-Ann, and Sarel that went to the ‘Pressure Test’. The three finalists were put to the ‘hardest test, stretching them to their ultimate limits’, being the preparation of ‘Salmon Three Ways’, a dish which had won Judge Andrew a gold medal in an international competition. It consisted of delicate salmon poached in miso infused olive oil; salmon tartare with a poached quail egg; and a teriyaki seared salmon. The three finalists were given 90 minutes to recreate the dish. Chef Pete got into his chef’s outfit for the first time in the show, and taught them how to fillet the beautiful salmon, to remove the pin bones with a pair of tweezers, and to remove the skin. They were told that the filleting is important, to achieve equal portions. Sarel sailed through the salmon test (below left), his dish being almost perfect: ‘superbly executed’ with his poaching and searing having been done to perfection. Sue-Ann looked fearful and was close to tears, saying her ‘life was hanging in the balance’, given that she had given up so much to get to where she wanted to be at MasterChef SA, having given up her job and selling her car. Her presentation was judged to be neat and symmetrical, her quail egg was perfectly poached, but her tartare lacked seasoning and had no lemon juice. One felt sorry for Lwazi when he said that his hands were not delicate enough relative to the quail egg. He admitted that this challenge had been ‘too far beyond his experience’, the oil was too hot, Chef Andrew said, the teriyaki salmon was on the ‘raw side‘, and it did not ‘melt on the tongue’. Given that Lwazi was in the koeksister ‘Pressure Test’ too, he was dismissed from MasterChef SA, ‘having used up all his lives’.
One should question the focus on salmon, especially with Chef Pete in the program. He has been a strong advocate of the SASSI fish list, and does not advocate the usage of non-green rated fish varieties. SASSI only lists Alaskan salmon as green, Cape salmon (‘geelbek’) being on the orange and red lists, kob appearing on all three lists, and Norwegian salmon is on the orange list! The judges did not use the opportunity to educate the audience about SASSI and responsible sustainable fish eating. For the first time the judges gave more specific feedback, of benefit not only to the finalists, but also to TV viewers lapping up every cuisine detail.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: Whale Cottage