At the presentation of the 2016 Prescient Chardonnay Report at SMITH Studio on Wednesday afternoon, Winemag.co.za Editor Christian Eedes said that South African Chardonnay at the top end had ‘never looked so good‘! The number of awards presented to Chardonnay wines scoring 90 or more out of a quality score of 100 points was testimony to his enthusiasm about the category.
Tag Archives: Montecasino
Global Pizza Challenge 2014: top SA passionate pizza makers sought!
On Thursday evening I attended the launch of the South African leg of the Global Pizza Challenge, a project which belongs to Chef Arnold Tanzer from Johannesburg and Martin Kobald from Australia. South African pizza makers have done well in the past seven years of the competition.
I almost did not make the function, which was held at the offices of Dish Food & Social, giving us a street address of 423 Main Road in Observatory. A building marked 423a on one side of a Shell garage was visible, but not the street number on Main Road that we were searching for in the near dark, which turned out to be on the other side of the petrol station. To complicate matters the entrance gate is in a side road off Main Road! Having survived the panic of finding the venue, it was great to catch up with Chef Arnold, whom I had met last year on a Media Day for MasterChef SA Season 2 at Nederburg.
Before we got into pizzas, we caught up about Season 3 of MasterChef SA, which is being filmed at the moment and will continue until June. The series will be broadcast from August onwards. Chef Arnold did not answer all my questions, such as if there would be two broadcasts per week again as in Season 2. He would not discuss how strict new MasterChef SA judge Reuben Robertsons Riffel is with the contestants, given that he may not want to rock the boat! We talked about the very honest and harsh review by Chef Arnold of Aarya, the Montecasino restaurant, the use of which Deena Naidoo won for a two year period in winning MasterChef SA Season 1. We chatted about how low key Season 2 winner Kamini Pather is, not being visible,and not (yet) having created her planned food communication channel, as she announced when she won. As before, there will be guest chefs. Continue reading →
MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 22: Finalists duck criticism in Chinatown, Deena Naidoo back on the box!
Last night’s episode 22 of MasterChef SA was a tough one, the Finalists being criticised by both the guests who were invited to evaluate the cooking, and by Chef Pete Goffe-Wood. A surprise was seeing Chef Deena Naidoo, Season 1 winner of MasterChef SA, back on the screen again!
Having returned from Ethiopia, the six Finalists and the judges made a stop in Johannesburg, at the new Chinatown in Cyrildene. The first Chinese came to our country during the gold rush in the 1800’s. Executive Chef Chang an Song from Tsogo Sun, one of the best Asian chefs in the country, Chef Benny Masekwameng said, demonstrated Peking Duck, Continue reading →
MasterChef SA Season 1 top prize restaurant Aarya under fire…from a MasterChef!
The most bizarre restaurant review I have ever read (other than the weird ones by IntertwEAT) is the one for Aarya at Montecasino, the restaurant which MasterChef SA Season 1 winner Deena Naidoo ‘co-owns’ with Tsogo Sun, which was part of his R8 million prize package last year. It was not a good review at all.
When Chef Deena was announced as the winner at the end of MasterChef SA Season 1, he was reported to have complained to a City Press reporter about the deceitful prize, in that he would not be receiving the R 7 million restaurant to keep, as was intimated in all the MasterChef SA publicity throughout the Season 1 screening, the restaurant portion having made this the largest prize ever for a South African reality show, M-Net boasted at the time. Chef Deena, with the help of M-Net’s PR department, quickly issued a media statement, denied Chef Deena’s criticism of Tsogo Sun, and he gushed with delight about his prize. Embarrassingly for the hotel group, Chef Deena declared that he had no intention of resigning from his job at Nedbank in Durban, or moving to Johannesburg. Tsogo Sun allowed Chef Deena to take on the restaurant prize on his terms – he would remain working at Nedbank, visiting the restaurant five days a month. He was also allowed to rename the restaurant Aarya, after his daughter (left), and was involved in its interior decor, mainly featuring posters of the Season 1 Finalists. On Twitter we have seen both praise and criticism of the restaurant since it opened in November. Continue reading →
MasterChef SA cooks with new ‘MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook’!
I felt honoured to have been invited by Errieda du Toit to attend the Cape Town launch of ‘MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook’ at Exclusive Books at Tygervalley on Thursday evening. With a number of the finalists present, it was impressive to see how much camaraderie there is between the Finalists, even though the filming for the series ended more than six months ago. The Cookbook documents the journey of the MasterChef SA finalists, in addition to their best recipes.
Published by Human & Rousseau, the text for the book was written by Errieda, the food was styled by Jacques Erasmus of Hemelhuijs, and photography of the food was done by Myburgh du Plessis, all under the editorship of Daleen van der Merwe, and is the ideal keepsake for everyone who loved MasterChef South Africa. Errieda said that MasterChef SA was a landmark program, which changed the face of food in South Africa. Even children are becoming excited about cooking.
The book profiles each contestant and judge, and summarises each episode, sharing the best recipes of each contestant, e.g. Deena Naidoo’s prawn curry, Thys Hattingh’s Cherry Frangipane tart, Sarel Loots’ Boerewors with Polenta and butternut mash, Khaya Silingile’s Chicken Ballotine, Sue-Ann Allen’s Oysters with horseradish mayonnaise, Lungi Nhlanhla’s pork tails, Jade de Waal’s warm Cape berry chocolate tart with pistachio and cardamom ice cream, and Samantha Nolan’s Dutch croquettes. Recipes for traditional South African dishes such as koeksister, koesiesters, denningvleis, tripe and phutu pap, Waterblommetjiebredie, and chicken pie, are also offered. The book culminates in the Grande Finale, and Deena winning the title of first MasterChef SA.
Each page offers a tip or hint, or an interesting comment, by one of the MasterChef SA finalists. There are guidelines to sustainable cooking, food and wine pairing suggestions by sponsor Nederburg, and Le Quartier Français Chef Vanie Padayachee’s tips for cooking curry. Visiting chefs Peter Tempelhoff from The Greenhouse, Coco Reinharz from Le Petit Sel and Sel et Poivre in Sandton, Michel Roux Jnr from La Gavroche in London, Margot Janse at The Tasting Room, Michael Broughton from Terroir, Reuben Riffel from Reuben’s, and Lorraine Meaney from the Cape Grace hotel, are captured in the Cookbook, and most have a recipe included in the book.
The book also provides background information on how many kilograms of butter (100), cheese (250), litres of fresh cream (100) and milk (600), 215 kg fresh herbs (no Robertsons spices were used, as they are not stocked by Woolworths, despite the joint sponsorship of MasterChef SA), and vegetables (200 kg onions, and a further 3 tonnes for the bootcamp, 100 kg mushrooms, and 250 kg avocado), 57 kg prawns, 165 kg chicken, 400 kg lamb, and more than 2500 eggs were used!
A number of the Cape-based MasterChef SA Finalists attended the book launch, including Sue-Ann (now a private chef, with her own demonstration kitchen at the newly opened V&A Market on the Wharf, Ilse Fourie (now a private chef), Guy Clark (now a private chef, having left the Madame Zingara group), Samantha, Charles Canning, Jade (who has recently published ‘Luscious’ vegetarian cookbook), and Lungi (now Deputy Food editor of Drum magazine). Ilse and Sue-Ann have signed a book deal for ‘Gourmet Sisters’ for next year. Sarel Loots travelled all the way from Sabie to be present, and Chef Pete Goffe-Wood also attended.
As MC, Errieda asked the Finalists how their lives had changed in the past year. Sarel related that he did not expect to be moved emotionally, and to cry about food! He also shared that he was mobbed at the Good Food & Wine Show in Johannesburg. Sarel is about to launch a range of Boerewors with fruit chutney, in conjunction with a spice company, first in Mpumalanga, and then nationally. Lungi shared that she has always been creative, and being creative about food was a further extension, showing who she is. Chef Pete said that he was seen to be ‘insensitive’ and tough, but he knew how much was at stake for each contestant, and how much they had given up in their professional and family lives to be there. Chef Pete was chased by a traffic cop for making a call on his cellphone – when they recognised him, the traffic cop told him he wanted to share how much he enjoyed MasterChef SA! The traffic cop opened the highway for Chef Pete, so that he could get to his function on time, referring to this as ‘culinary corruption’! Sue-Ann said that she is cooking for 120 guests with ease now, and that her knowledge of food and wine has improved dramatically. Ilse said that she has learnt knife skills, and how to eat and cook, yet stay small, being a ‘plus size model’. The finalists were most gracious in signing the book, and writing personalised messages.
Food trends for 2013 are Refined (beautiful plates of food, even if one is making it for oneself), Clean (in its content and origin), and Considerate (evaluating its impact on the environment), said Sue-Ann. Chef Pete added Sustainability, seeing this as THE food trend for the next ten years. Consumers are becoming more aware about environmental responsibility, both in supermarkets and in restaurants.
A dinner at Zibaldone in the Tygerberg Waterfront after the launch was even more special, as it allowed one to get to know Lungi, Sue-Ann, Sarel, and Ilse even better, and provided interesting behind the scenes MasterChef SA information: The contestants stayed at the guest farm in Paarl for up to 10 weeks (Sue-Ann and Deena), and were cut off from all communication (no cellphones or internet connection was allowed, with only a few calls to their families). They shared rooms. There was a ghost in one of the accommodation buildings, which frightened Sue-Ann and Ilse, especially when most of the other contestants had been sent home. They got home late at night, and had to get up at 6h00 to be back on set. They made their own food at night when they got back to the guest farm. They were provided with loads of cookbooks. The judges brought their own clothes, Woolworths not using the opportunity to market their clothing lines. Sue-Ann and Deena had to buy their own clothes for the Grande Finale dinner cooked for them at Montecasino in Johannesburg, and bumped into Ilse at Canal Walk by absolute coincidence on that day, not being allowed to tell her anything. Not shown on the program, but shared with Sue-Ann, was that good performance was rewarded with a shopping pass, which allowed her time off to shop at Paarl Mall! Almost all the contestants got on like a house on fire. Some of the male finalists were like naughty boys, dropping insects on Ilse, who is petrified of them, and other even worse pranks. Charles was the ‘papa bear’ and Samantha the ‘mama bear’ of the group. It was 54° C in Zanzibar, the heat and humidity affecting everyone badly, even the judges. A large number of the MasterChef SA team got food poisoning from eating the food at the Zanzibar night market, due to the food having been exposed to the heat throughout the day. The Finalists were not allowed wine.
The two owners of Zibaldone, brothers Adriano and Roberto Pietrella originally from Umbria, were extremely generous, in sending antipasta to the table, including Vitello Tonnato (veal with tuna sauce), Coppa ham with a spelt, tomato and mozzarella salad, lamb tortellini, Veal Romana, and ending off with Tiramisu. I was impressed with Sarel’s love for food, so many months after the reality TV series, spending more time with the owners in the kitchen than at the table with us, always keen to learn something new.
The MasterChef SA interviews we had done during the season one series, and the book launch, showed how the Finalists have bonded, and become friends for life, it would seem, some becoming like brothers and sisters to each others. All the Finalists seem to have remained humble, even though they are instantly recognisable wherever they go. They will become famous in the United Kingdom, the UK TV channel soon flighting our MasterChef SA series, Chef Pete announced on Thursday. I asked Ilse, Sarel and Sue-Ann how they felt about season two of MasterChef SA, and each of them had a different reaction: Sarel said he is already working on building more Twitter followers, Ilse said she is concerned, while Sue-Ann said it will have no effect on them, as they were the first Finalists in the first MasterChef SA program in our country. Season two of MasterChef SA has commenced, the cold tests completed, and the hot dish tests are underway. Filming at Nederburg will probably start late in January, and flighting will be twice a week, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, from about end March. Chef Pete said that the quality of the contestants is of a very high standard, having learnt a lot from MasterChef SA season one. The new ‘MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook’ is compulsory reading for all MasterChef SA hopefuls, and for the fans of the TV series.
MasterChef South Africa: The Cookbook, Human & Rousseau. www.mnet.co.za/masterchefsa Twitter: @MasterChef _SA Available at leading booksellers. R350 recommended price.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA Season 2 on the menu!
The popular MasterChef SA will return, with a second season of the reality TV series to be filmed, reports The Times. Details are scant at this stage, but it would appear as if the timing could be similar to that of season 1.
M-Net would not confirm whether the same three judges Pete Goffe-Wood, Andrew Atkinson, and Benny Masekwameng will be used again, and whether the location for the filming will be Nederburg again, the kitchen still being in place on the Paarl wine estate. The company did say that auditions could take place towards the end of the year.
It would appear that the Advertising Standards Authority ruling in favour of M-Net, and against complainant The Citizen, for not having misled the Season 1 MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo in terms of the prize value, has given the broadcaster the confidence to continue with a second season. Deena will open ‘his’ MondeVino-renamed Aayra restaurant at Montecasino in three weeks. One wonders how successful it will be, opening more than three months after he was announced the winner, given the controversy that surrounded his initial criticism of the prize value, and given that he will only be present at the restaurant about six days a month.
The article does not mention the sponsors, and one wonders if Robertsons will find benefit from sponsoring the series again, given all the controversy surrounding the endorsement of the brand by Chef Reuben Riffel. Nederburg, Woolworths and Hyundai probably found value in their sponsorship of the series, and would be likely to be involved again.
POSTSCRIPT 12/10: On the ‘Gourmet Guys’ Blog today they have announced that the three judges Pete Goffe-Wood, Andrew Atkinson, and Benny Masekwameng have been signed up for Season 2 of MasterChef SA.
POSTSCRIPT 15/10: The Gourmet Guys’ Blog has announced the details of the MasterChef SA Season 2 auditions: at Montecasino in Johannesburg on 27 October; at Suncoast in Durban on 4 November; and at the Cullinan Inn in Cape Town on 10 November.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef South Africa: has Season 1 been a success?
It is interesting to analyse how successful MasterChef South Africa has been, its final 19th episode being broadcast this evening, the winner of the first season being announced in the special 90 minute Grande Finale. It would appear that the reality TV cooking program has been enjoyed by many South Africans, yet some aspects about it were disliked.
To judge the success of MasterChef SA we looked at quantitative information:
1. Audience Ratings (ARs) are used by the South African advertising industry to quantify the success of a TV program. ARs = Reach x Frequency, or the % of the Target Market reached. It was explained by a media strategist that the AR statistics do not reflect viewership of M-Net repeats, and therefore they do not reflect the full number of viewers. The AR of 0,8 achieved for MasterChef SA exceeds the expectation of 0,5 on an ‘All Adults’ target market filter, she said, and described the program as ‘world class’, ‘professional’, and with good production values. A food TV producer felt the opposite, saying that M-Net must be very disappointed with the viewership achieved, its ultimate goal having been to sell more decoders.
2. On Twitter the @MasterChef_SA account has grown to 11253 Followers. One may have expected more Followers, for the stature of the programme. When one reads the Timeline after an episode, the mix of South African Tweeters is evident, attracting commentary from male and female viewers, and from different language groups. @RobertsonsSpice has only achieved 733 Followers, a very poor performance. @Woolworths has 33 466 Followers, an exceptional number, but had embraced Twitter prior to its MasterChef SA sponsorship. @Nederburg only has 1265 Followers, also disappointing for this sponsor.
3. On Facebook the MasterChef SA page has 8511 likes, Robertsons Herbs and Spice has 1373, Nederburg 7544, and Woolworths an amazing 193676 likes!
4. The YouTube videos of the Robertsons’ Masterclasses by Chef Reuben Riffel show the viewership, and it is understandable that some of the earlier videos would have the highest viewership. The first Masterclass in week 1 (16 March) was for a ‘Cheesy Garlic Bread’, and has achieved 4154 views in the past four months. ‘Stuffed Chicken Breast’ (30 April) has 3335 views to date. ‘Crepes’ (20 March) achieved 3201 views. ‘Pepper Sauce’ (19 March) was seen by 2882 viewers. ‘Chocolate Braaied Bananas’ (16 March) has achieved 2864 views. ‘Milktart’ (2 May) has 2732 views to date, and ‘Roast Chicken’ (15 May) has 2252. The other videos have had lower viewership, some extremely low. The viewership figures must be disappointing for Robertsons, and we could see a sharp drop-off in viewership growth two months ago, midway through the series. The dishes demonstrated by Chef Reuben were hardly of a ‘Masterclass’ stature!
5. Arnold Tanzer was the leader of the MasterChef SA culinary team of eleven, which included Chef Vanie Padayachee from Le Quartier Français too, working behind the scenes in testing every recipe that the Finalists had to prepare, often more than once, checking the preparation times, and making sure that the challenges were ‘doable’. Interesting was the article in the Sunday Times, detailing the quantities of food and liquid that the 19-series programme went through, supplied by Woolworths in the main: 62 kg mussels, 300 kg fish, 500 kg beef, 400 kg lamb, 165 kg chicken, 2592 free-range eggs, 250 kg of cheese, 215 kg of fresh herbs (mainly mint, thyme, and dill – there is no mention of Robertsons’ herbs and spices, which are not stocked by Woolworths), 100 kg mushrooms, 100 kg butter, 600 l Ayrshire milk, 200 kg onions, 240 l sunflower oil, 144 l olive oil, and many more ingredients. These quantities used benefited the suppliers of these products.
6. Twitter was a new social medium to most MasterChef SA Finalists, and they were encouraged to open Twitter accounts. Deena Naidoo has by far the largest number of Followers at 1986, followed by Sarel Loots (1331), Jade de Waal (1254), Ilse Fourie (1019), and Lwazi Mngoma (1018). The other Finalists have very much lower Follower numbers.
Qualitatively, it was interesting to observe:
1. Initially, no one went out on Tuesday evenings, being glued to their TV screens. From Twitter one could see that after the first four weeks life started getting back to normal, and event organisers were not afraid to schedule functions on Tuesday evenings any longer. The hype about MasterChef SA never reached that of the Australian series when flighted locally.
2. Many TV viewers, especially men, were initially not interested in watching the program, but the talk on Twitter and in social circles enticed them eventually to watch the program. Towards the end of the series we saw fewer proactive Tweets about MasterChef SA, and fewer people talking about the reality series socially.
3. Most restaurant staff were unable to watch, as they were working at the time of the program. If they had access to a PVR, they watched a recording afterwards. Most of them do not seem to own a M-Net decoder, and seemed surprisingly uninformed about the reality TV series, or were not interested in it, most chefs seeing it as ‘amateurish’.
4. Viewers expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with the judges’ decision to eliminate Guy Clark and not Jade de Waal in episode 9. There was talk on Twitter about the elimination choice being a ‘production decision’, and many said that they would no longer watch the program due to the perceived rigged choices made.
5. The program sponsorship will have benefited Woolworths and Nederburg, but the impact on Robertsons’ sales is not expected to be significant:
* Woolworths has run superb food advertising during the MasterChef SA episodes, well matched to the theme of each episode, and creating amazing appetite appeal. In the episodes too the Woolworths Pantry was well-branded when the Finalists had to source their ingredients. Significant discounts offered to Woolworths card holders must have brought more feet into their stores. The sponsorship is said to have taken attention away from the embarrassing Frankies beverages debacle. Surprisingly the in-store branding of their sponsorship of the reality TV series was low key, with small banners at the tills. The initial uproar caused by two recipes of the Woolworths Pantry guest food bloggers appeared to have blown over quickly. The Woolworths sustainable seafood commercial linked to the seafood episode shot at Paternoster caused controversy, because the content of the advertisement was not reflected in its stores.
* A media strategist interviewed for this blogpost fed back how she had started buying Nederburg wines again, now finding it trendy to do so, as a result of watching MasterChef SA. Despite the show being filmed at the wine estate, there was little Nederburg branding in the episodes. Its commercials were less impactful than those of Woolworths, and many say that the ‘ingredient’ composition of the Nederburg wines shown in its commersials, to demonstrate the flavours of the wines, may have been taken literally, if viewers did not know better. Surprising was the low key product placement of Nederburg wines, given that the MasterChef SA kitchen was built for the show on the wine estate. A bottle of Amarula received prominence in a Mystery Box for a dessert, one episode focused on food and Nederburg wine pairing, which highlighted that Deena had little wine knowledge, and one episode featured the celebration of the harvest at Nederburg. Disappointing for Nederburg would be Deena Naidoo winning MasterChef SA tonight, as he does not appear to be a wine drinker, given that the prize includes a sommeliers’ course, and a year’s supply of their Winemasters Reserve range wines.
* Robertsons went through the Social Media wars since MasterChef SA started in March, its endorsement by Chef Reuben Riffel having raised credibility and advertising honesty questions, and its Social Media Manager Sonia Cabano having been dismissed soon after she took on the job. The end result is that Chef Reuben’s Robertsons’ endorsement has cost him credibility as a chef, and he appears to now be written out of the Robertsons’ advertising, only one of the five or six spice brand TV commercials featuring him in each of the last few episodes. A further blow to Chef Reuben’s credibility is his very recent endorsement of Rama margarine, also a Unilever brand. Robertsons did not manage its sponsorship well, in that registered ‘members’ of their Masterclass page were sent recipes unrelated to the previous day’s MasterChef SA episode, a marketing failure. In general, Robertsons went through a torrid time, and ‘MasterChef SA‘ must be a swearword inside its hallowed halls! Its attempt at Social Media was a miserable failure in many respects, and appeared poorly managed, despite its use of the Liquorice social media marketing agency.
6. The MasterChef SA series benefited sponsors Woolworths and Nederburg, jointly creating two wine brands specifically for the series (Grenache 2010, and a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend). It also opened the door for Nederburg to sell its Winemasters Reserve range in Woolworths stores over the four month MasterChef SA broadcast period. There was no cross-benefit between Woolworths and Robertsons, the retailer having to publicly admit on Twitter that it does not stock Robertsons spices and herbs.
7. Initially the response to our competitions to predict the overall winner of MasterChef SA and the weekly Finalist leaving the show was surprisingly low, but increased the closer it got to the Finale, and the fewer the options for elimination and winning the grand prize became. The readership of our weekly MasterChef SA episode summary the day after the show saw an increase week by week. Restaurant staff working on Tuesday evenings, international readers, and local non-subscribers who cannot view M-Net, and surprisingly even viewers of the program, fed back that they read our MasterChef SA weekly write-ups. We got hooked onto MasterChef SA, loving writing up each episode, and will miss the Tuesday evening programmes.
8. MasterChef SA dislikes focused strongly on the judges, particularly the expression on Chef Andrew Atkinson’s face, his dress, and his stare at the Finalists when judging their dishes. Chefs who have met him, however, say that this is not him at all, and praise his culinary skills. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood attracted negative criticism from the second half of the series onwards. Chef Benny Masekwameng was the most loved judge by far, always kind and supportive to the Finalists. In general chefs felt that the chef judges should have worn chef outfits, and not worn earrings and piercings, to set a good example to young chefs. Interesting is that every guest chef wore a chef’s outfit in the series. Initial feedback at the start of the series was critical of all the chef judges being male. After Chef Margot Janse’s appearance, she was judged by Twitterers to have been an ideal judge.
9. The program series has been criticised for the poor quality food that the Finalists prepared for many weeks, although this criticism subsided in the last few programs, when the Finalists had to replicate dishes made by top chefs Michel Roux Jnr of La Gavroche, Peter Tempelhoff of The Greenhouse, and Margot Janse of Le Quartier Français. Linked to this is the chefs’ criticism about the prize of a year-long (now extended to two years) contract at MondeVino restaurant at Montecasino, saying it is irresponsible, as none of the Finalists could step into the shoes of a restaurant chef, who has had years of training and experience, and said that it is demeaning to their career to imply that little or no training is required.
10. There is no doubt that MasterChef SA has stimulated an interest in cooking, and in trying out more complicated dishes. It probably has stimulated interest in eating out at restaurants such as Terroir, The Greenhouse, Biesmiellah, Sel et Poivre, and The Tasting Room, all featured in the series.
11. The most gratifying end result of MasterChef SA has been the growth in the Finalists’ cooking skills, in what they learnt from the judges, and the Masterclasses held by the visiting chefs. They also grew vastly in confidence. Chef Arnold Tanzer fed back in the Sunday Times that ‘you could see the change in people as the series went on, particularly how their perception of food changed‘. He added that he was surprised that even the film crew members were excited about what they had filmed, and wanted advice on how to make some of the dishes. A number of the Finalists have made the best of their MasterChef SA participation: Berdina Schurink has opened Bella Sophia Culinary Café in Pretoria; Thys Hattingh has changed jobs, now working at the Compass Group as a staff restaurant consultant; Guy Clark changed careers, and now is a chef for the Madame Zingara group, at Café Mozart and at Bombay Bicycle Club; Charles Canning and Samantha Nolan have a stand at the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, following in the footsteps of Chef Pete; and Lungi Nhlanhla is now deputy food editor at Drum magazine. There is not one Finalist that has not benefited from his or her participation in MasterChef SA, being a springboard to living their passion for cooking. Tonight it will be Sue-Ann Allen or Deena Naidoo who will walk off with the MasterChef SA 2012 crown, and one of their lives will change forever! We wish them both the best of luck.
POSTSCRIPT 28/7: A furore has been created by The Citizen, reporting yesterday that MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo was unhappy about the misrepresentation of his Tsogo Sun MondoVino restaurant prize, damaging the image of the reality TV series, M-Net, its sponsors, Finalists, and chef judges.
POSTSCRIPT 28/7: Times Live has published audience figures, to highlight the success of MasterChef SA TV series: MasterChef SA had the 5th highest viewership on M-Net between its start in March and 24 July, beaten by ‘Carte Blanche’ (265939 viewers), ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ movie with Matthew McConaughey (221411), ‘CSI Miami’ (202102), and ‘Idols’ (196698). The reality cooking show beat ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on viewership. M-Net had capitalised on the trend to viewership of cooking programs in producing the local MasterChef SA TV series. No decision has been made about producing a Season 2 of MasterChef SA next year.
POSTSCRIPT 29/8: If the article from Channel 24 is correct (it is part of the same media group that owns M-Net), there will be a season 2 of MasterChef SA, another measure of the success of the reality TV series. M-Net has not confirmed this.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA episode 18: Tastes of the Le Quartier Français Tasting Room, Sue-Ann Allen and Deena Naidoo go into Finale!
The second last episode of MasterChef SA left one with a little sadness, in that there is only one episode of MasterChef SA left this season, the 90 minute Finale being broadcast next Tuesday. Many viewers were sad to see Manisha Naidu leave MasterChef SA last night, as she has rarely put a cooking foot wrong, and showed tremendous leadership in team contests.
Before driving to Franschhoek, the Finalists were asked how they felt about being the final three. Manisha said she was in fighting mode, while Sue-Ann Allen said that she would fight ‘tooth and nail‘. Deena Naidoo said he was ‘scared as hell’. Sue-Ann said she would train hard to run the MondeVino restaurant at Montecasino if she should win, wanting to learn more about fine-dining, and that she is ready to go to Johannesburg. Manisha said that she wants to cook ‘my food my way‘.
Chef Pete Goffe-Wood introduced the venue of the day’s challenge, being Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room, serving the ‘story of South Africa‘. Chef Margot Janse said that she challenges her team continuously to do things differently, and that she sources local ingredients in preference to imported products. Chef Pete described Chef Margot as a ‘national treasure’, saying that she is in a ‘class of her own’. The episode was concentrated on three courses which the Finalists Sue-Ann, Manisha, and Deena had to taste at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, the third ranked South African restaurant on the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list. Deena, Sue-Ann, and Manisha were shown the Le Quartier Français kitchen, and then tasted three of the dishes on Chef Margot’s Tasting Menu. Sitting down with the Finalists, Chef Margot described the restaurant dining room as the ‘stage for my food‘. Chef Margot Janse received compliments on Twitter for being firm yet friendly in her interaction with the Finalists, and it was suggested that she would have been an ideal judge. Her Dutch accent gave her an interesting character.
The starter was a Beetroot sponge and spinach purée with buttermilk labne, and a dill and cucumber granita, with a dusting of buchu. Deena said he had never seen buchu, and Chef Margot described it as having elements of eucalyptus, lavender and citrus. The beetroot sponge is made from beetroot juice and gelatine, and dissolves once it is in one’s mouth, they were told. Sue-Ann chose to make this dish. The main course was quail and braised fennel with porcini, liquorice root purée, and a liquorice glaze. Chef Margot said that balance was important, and that none of the other flavours should overshadow those of the quail. Manisha chose to make this challenging main course. A very South African dessert was the baobab pear parfait, served with a pistachio crumble, honey jellies, and a mango gel, which Deena elected to make. The Finalists were given 90 minutes to make their dishes, and had to prepare four portions of each for the judges and Chef Margot to try. Chef Margot advised the contestants to remain focused, and to not panic. She said all three dishes were equally difficult. She shared with the MasterChef SA judges how neatly the Finalists were working, packing away dirty dishes around them, to keep their work space tidy. Chef Pete reminded the Finalists that there was ‘zero margin for error’.
Sue-Ann was given some tips about the starter by Chef Margot, saying the beetroot sponge must set thoroughly. The timing of its plating is essential, as the granita can melt if plated too early. She was also told that the spinach for the puree must be cooked properly. Sue-Ann said that there was ‘no room for error’. When she took out her beetroot sponge, it was slightly underset, but she had enough time to return it to the blast freezer. Sue-Ann did not panic, and seemed to be in control and focused. The judges told her that her granita had a refreshingly different texture, and that her buttermilk labne was rich and creamy. The best compliment came from Chef Margot, saying that Sue-Ann’s dish looked ‘a lot like mine’. The labne and granita were said to be perfectly seasoned, but that the beetroot could have used slightly more seasoning. Chef Pete called her beetroot a ‘beetroot Aero‘.
Manisha chose to make the quail dish, being ‘beyond me’, to stretch herself. Chef Margot told her that she may not overcook the quail, and that the glaze needs time to reduce. She was also advised to cook her fennel early and braise it gently, as it takes time to cook. Asked by the judges whether she would add her own touch, Manisha said that she would stick to the recipe ‘precisely’, because it was someone else’s recipe, and not her own. Chef Pete seemed worried about her timing. She reduced the quail cooking timing, given how small they were, and they were perfectly pink inside once she cut them open. The biggest criticism of her dish was her untidy plating, having served two quail pieces instead of only one in Chef Margot’s dish, and she forgot the pea shoots, due to her dish having so many different elements, she said. Her fennel was said to not be as soft as Chef Margot’s. Not following the plating of Chef Margot was a dangerous move at the tail-end of the reality TV series, with so much at stake.
Deena said he had to overlap on some of the processes, and started making the Pate a Bombe. He spent about 20 minutes too much time on making the parfait, losing valuable time. He was criticised for having too much pistachio crumble on his plate, and for his parfait being too dense, not being ‘frozen air’, said Chef Pete. Chef Margot said the flavour of the parfait was fantastic, but did not have lightness, therefore not being a parfait. Chef Benny Masekwameng added that the jelly ‘was not there yet‘, but that it had flavours of honey.
When the judges returned to announce their elimination decision, they said it had been a very hard call. The errors that Manisha made in not following Chef Margot’s plating exactly cost her the chance to win the competition, and she was sent home with words of praise about the great food that she had cooked during the programme, and how good she is at combining flavours. Chef Benny said that he looked forward to eating at her restaurant. Chef Pete said that he would never forget her sausage dish. Manisha left without tears, and said that it had been an absolutely amazing experience, which had grown her ‘confidence and strength’.
Sue-Ann did a little dance of joy when she realised how close she and Deena are to the end, and to one of them winning MasterChef SA. She said ‘May the best man or woman win’! Of the two contestants, it is clear that Sue-Ann has grown in her confidence and is more focused on winning as a goal. Deena will win by not making mistakes, and comes across as more humble.
Once again Chef Reuben Riffel appeared in only one of the five Robertsons TV commercials flighted in the MasterChef SA episode last night.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA episode 16: Deena Naidoo honoured by star Chef Michel Roux Jnr, Lungi Nhlanhla ballotined out!
Last night’s episode 16 was the most sophisticated MasterChef SA one we have seen to date, and reached a high with Chef Michel Roux Jnr of La Gavroche, a two Michelin star restaurant in London, giving a Masterclass. It felt that we as viewers as well as the final five Finalists had reached culinary heaven, the closest that most of us will get to getting a taste of a Michelin star restaurant! It will have taught the MasterChef SA judges how gracious one can be with one’s feedback, no matter how negative the message is.
The episode started with a quick reminder of the big prizes at stake for the winner of MasterChef SA: R250000 in cash from Robertsons, a year’s supply of Nederburg as well as tuition from the SA Sommeliers Association, a trip to Tuscany sponsored by Woolworths, a Hyundai, and a year of being in charge of Tsogo Sun’s MondoVino Restaurant at Montecasino. Sue-Ann Allen was the first to put up her hand when the finalists were asked who wants to become the winner of MasterChef SA.
Chef Michel Roux Jnr was introduced to the Finalists, Deena Naidoo saying that it was a treat to meet this ‘culinary royalty‘. La Gavroche opened in 1993, and Chef Michel is a judge on MasterChef UK. Lungi Nhlanhla cried tears of happiness in experiencing this famous chef. Chef Michel said of himself that he comes from a ‘family dynasty of butter and cream loving chefs’, whose clients ‘leave content with a full tummy’. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that his meal at La Gavroche was ‘one of the most memorable’ he has experienced. Chef Michel shared with the finalists that if they ‘cook from the heart and believe in what you put on the plate’, they would be a champion. He prepared his La Gavroche signature dish, sounding even better with its French name, being artichoke stuffed with chicken liver, topped with truffle slices, and served with a Madeira sauce. All the Finalists as well as the viewers were taken through a step by step explanation of how to make the precious dish. Turning the artichokes was difficult but important to reveal the beautiful shape of the heart. Chef Michel said that he seasons at the beginning, and then adds more, if needed. Keeping the chicken mousse on ice is important. Deena said he ‘captured every motion‘ of Chef Michel, who said one must take the ‘choke out of the artichoke’, yet retain its shape. Truffles must be treated with respect, being so expensive, he emphasised. Guests expect to pay more for dishes with truffles, but they expect the chef to be generous with them too, he said. Sue-Ann said that Chef Michel’s work once again showed the ‘simple beauty of food‘. When she tasted his dish, she said that she experienced a ‘texture and taste explosion‘. Sarel praised its ‘earthiness’, saying it was ‘just beautiful’, and Deena said it was a ‘heavenly dish cooked by a genius‘.
The task to the Finalists was to replicate the artichoke dish of Chef Michel Jnr, and to make a chicken ballotine, which can be prepared by braising or roasting it. The expectation of the Finalists was ‘perfection‘, he said. The ‘carrot’ offered was a bell, which the Finalist preparing the best dish would receive, for use in episode 17, to obtain advice from one of the Chef Judges.
Sue-Ann chose to make a cream cheese, sage, rosemary and parma ham stuffed chicken ballotine with beetroot rings and green pea mash. She was said to cook with ‘heart’. The judges were sceptical about her cream cheese stuffing, describing it as an ‘interesting combination’, and questioned how it would hold together, to which she answered that she would use egg white. Chef Michel said her presentation was nice, and its taste was the closest to his. However, her ballotine was not so successful, the cream cheese not binding. Sue-Ann said that who ‘comes out strong today, will have a serious chance to win‘.
Lungi was praised for her concept of echoing the artichoke stuffing in her ballotine, ‘a very clever idea’ according to Chef Michel. Yet he expressed his concern about her cauliflower pureé, cutting it fine if she wanted it to set and cook. Chef Benny Masekwameng praised her artichoke dish, cut open to show the chicken liver inside. Chef Michel said that her concept was right, but not its execution. Her cauliflower mousse did not hold, and went ‘blop’, she said. While the judges were evaluating her dish, she started to cry, and gentleman Chef Benny got up and gave her a hanky to dry her tears. Chef Michel said her plate was too full, and she should have used a bigger plate to make her dish look better and neater. He told her that ‘we must learn through our mistakes‘. Chef Andrew told her that ‘to be adventurous with food, you need boundaries as well’.
Deena used minced pork with roasted pistachio nuts. He said that he was worried about being judged by Chef Michel, but told himself to keep focus, and show respect to Chef Michel. His biggest challenge was to turn the artichoke, he said. His dish was described as being ‘visually bold and simple’, but his use of two plates was questioned by the judges. Deena said he wanted to highlight the accompaniment on a separate plate, in honour of Chef Michel. Chef Pete very quickly said that it was the wrong thing to do. Chef Andrew Atkinson gave an approving wink. Chef Pete liked the ballotine sausage, saying it was clever, with his use of pistachio and the crisp ham on the outside. Chef Michel said that it was the only ‘true ballotine‘ prepared of the five he evaluated, especially as Deena had toasted the pistachio nuts.
Sarel Loots stuffed his ballotine with peppadew (spicy capsicum, it was explained to Chef Michel, not having heard of it or tasted it before). When he was questioned about the peppadew overpowering the truffle, he said that it would give his dish colour, and that he was ‘experimental’, wanting to ‘push the envelope’! Chef Michel said that the truffle should be the star, and not the peppadew. The presentation was praised, but he was told his dish came in two separate parts: the artichoke mousse, which was a little heavy and dense, and the ballotine, which had a good balance of flavour, but the two did not match each other, as the peppadew overpowered the truffle. Sarel had taken a huge risk, he was told. During the broadcast, Sarel Tweeted sweetly: ‘We were so honoured to be in this episode – going home will be no problem‘.
Manisha Naidu looked worried when preparing her dish, and Chef Michel advised her to ‘stay calm, stay focused, and believe in yourself‘. She said it was hard work to pass the chicken through the sieve to make the mousse. Manisha was told that she could have added more colour to her dish, and that her stuffing was not visible (she said her mushrooms had shrunk). But her artichoke was well turned, and was very close to his. Her ballotine was dull and over-cooked, said Chef Pete.
Chef Michel presented the bell for the best dish to Deena, saying that he ‘might one day become a professional chef‘, in presenting the ‘only true ballotine today‘, amazing praise! Lungi was sent home, and Chef Benny said that she had cooked some of his favourite dishes on the show, reflecting her creativity and passion for food. Chef Pete encouraged her to keep on cooking, and that ‘we look forward to seeing more of you’. Lungi said she was now recognised as a cook, having ‘become a mature young woman who had travelled an amazing road of self-discovery’ through MasterChef SA. The highest compliment came from Chef Michel, with his invitation for Lungi to visit him at his restaurant when she comes to London. Chef Peter Tempelhoff of Eat Out Top 10 top restaurant The Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenhort will give a Masterclass in episode 17.
It was interesting to note that only one of the three or four Robertons TV commercials in MasterChef SA last night featured Chef Reuben Riffel!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA episode 14: ‘Bending the Boerewors’, Ilse Fourie rolls out in Perseverance Test!
Episode 14 on MasterChef SA last night was action-packed, with the seven Finalists having to make and cook their own Boerewors. A Pressure Test, which turned into a Perseverance Test, saw the elimination of beautiful Ilse Fourie.
Returning at Nederburg from Zanzibar, Deena Naidoo said that it was ‘back to business’, while Sarel Loots said he had a ‘stomach turning’ feeling. The three judges introduced an Invention Test, the task being to make Boerewors, a true South African sausage. Not only did they have to prepare the dish, but they also had to make their own Boerewors. Lungi Nhlanhla said that she had never made sausage before. They were told to make a dish, ‘thinking out of the box’ , with the ‘right fat content, coarseness, texture, seasoning, being of 5-star restaurant quality’. Sarel commented that small mistakes could cost them the competition.
Lungi made ostrich boerewors with a North African touch, including couscous, adding cumin and coriander as spices. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood praised her dish for having a ‘lovely perfume, and North African vibe‘. Sue-Ann Allen decided on a Thai-inspired boerewors dish using rump, spicing her dish with chilli, garlic and ginger. When she started off, the judges talked about her dishes in the past, commenting that she would cook her meat too early, let it stand, and that it would then dry out. ‘She has a habit of cooking her meat to death’, Chef Pete said. Her sausage was slammed, Chef Pete saying she had made ‘droë wors’ and not boerewors. She was also told that they do not prepare sausage in Asia. Sue-Ann seemed down, saying that she was ‘not feeling like a champ‘, and that she needed to maintain her confidence. Sarel made a traditional boerewors, spicing it with cloves, cumin, pepper, nutmeg, and interestingly adding a mango chutney. Chef Pete said that he is a ‘chutney man’, and said that he looked forward to how Sarel would balance it out. His dish was described by Chef Pete as ‘very presentable‘, the chutney addition to the sausage being ‘a risk which had paid off, its sweetness giving life, bringing out the spices’. Sarel was visibly proud of himself after this super praise.
Ilse made mini rump boerewors, flavoured with rosemary, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper, but they started popping when she cooked them, as she had stuffed them too tight. She made polenta squares on which she placed an onion and tomato relish, serving a beetroot salad with a twist too. When her mini boerewors did not turn out as she had envisaged, she put them onto skewers. Chef Benny said that her sausage was dried out and over worked, being more like ‘pork bangers’. Chef Pete added that ‘the beetroot did not work at all’. Khaya Silingile added lots of spice to her sausage. As she tends to do, she said that she was worried about the casing, which needs enough air, and must be evenly stuffed. In her rush to finish, a sauce she has prepared fell over, but the judges did not seem to miss it in their feedback. Her dish was described as having a ‘neat looking sausage’, but there was too much turmeric in the pap, being very yellow, but not with much taste, Chef Pete told her. But her attractive plate was praised. She had used coriander, cumin, thyme, cardamom, and pistachio, but the cardamom was found to overpower the dish. Her sausage was said to need more fat. Deena made his sausage from a mix of pork, lamb and beef, served with sauteed onions, and a chakalaka sauce. Chef Andrew said that his boerewors had ‘safe and sound flavours’. Manisha Naidu made her sausage from pork and beef, adding cumin, coriander, and some fresh herbs. Her presentation was described as symmetrical, and as a ‘celebration of colour, flavour, texture, and different cooking methods’ , Chef Benny Masekwameng told her. Chef Andrew Atkinson added that her dish ‘blows the taste buds away’. Manisha was happy with the feedback, saying that she has grown in confidence.
Manisha glowed when her dish was declared the best of the day, making her one of the two team leaders, with Sarel Loots, in the next episode, to be based in Paternoster. The Finalists were praised by the judges for their presentation in particular, saying that it was good enough to be served in many restaurants. They were told to be proud of their work.
MasterChef SA is a ‘complete package’, Chef Pete told the Finalists, and is a combination of perseverance and raw talent. Instead of doing the Pressure Test the following day, as had been the norm, Ilse, Khaya and Sue-Ann were told that their perseverance would be ‘stretched to the absolute’, in that they had to work through the night, being given 12 hours to prepare their dish of a slow roasted deboned lamb, a pressed lamb shank terrine, Maxim potatoes, and a jus. Khaya laughed hysterically in reaction to the task, saying that if she did not laugh she would cry. The judges went home, as did the other Finalists, the judges popping in while the three Finalists cooked through the night. Ilse struggled to debone her lamb neatly. Khaya was so tired, being pregnant, that she lay down on a couch for two hours, the other two Finalists looking after her food. The three Finalists gave each other advice. Ilse tried to make the potato crisps three times, encouraged by her ‘colleagues’, but did not get the hang of it. None of the three had deboned meat before, and Ilse was seen by the judges to be using the wrong knife for it. She was advised by Chef Andrew to take out the bone in one piece. Sue-Ann said that the biggest obstacle would be time. She added that she had never felt so ‘unconfident‘ ever, and was scared of having to go home. She was delighted that her terrine worked. She said that MasterChef SA is not a competition against others, ‘but against yourself’. Ilse did not have enough time to cook her meat for long enough.
Khaya felt that her meat was a bit underdone, being ‘a bit more pink than I like it’. The lamb was judged by Chef Andrew to be a little fatty, not enough of the fat having been trimmed off. Her terrine was praised, and the ‘sauce was like velvet on the tongue’. Chef Benny also praised the sauce, saying it brought it all together. Chef Pete said the lamb was too pink and therefore a bit chewy, but he praised the terrine, saying it was a ‘good plate‘. Ilse’s rolled shoulder did not hold when she cut it. Chef Pete loved her terrine, saying it was ‘soft and sticky‘. Chef Benny said she had had a problem with the deboning, had overcooked her meat, and that the sauce was too sharp. Chef Andrew said that she did not get the potato crisp correct, but that her terrine was superb. Sue-Ann was delighted when Chef Pete said that her lamb was ‘beautifully cooked’, and her terrine excellent. Her jus was a bit bitter. Chef Andrew liked her perfect Maxim potato, and Chef Benny said that her lamb ‘was nice and glossy‘. The best praise of all was when she was told that it was the best dish she has cooked on MasterChef SA to date. She had ‘dug deep’, and the judges shook hands with the ‘real Sue-Ann’! She shared that a positive change in mind had led to a positive result.
Chef Benny praised all three dishes, saying that they had been good enough to serve in his restaurant (then MondoVino at Montecasino). Ilse was sent home with praise from the judges, saying that she ‘is a talented cook’ and that she was leaving MasterChef SA with her head held high. She responded that she was looking at food differently since she had started at MasterChef SA, and that it was her best experience by far. Her dream is to do a cooking show, she said.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage