Tag Archives: Sarel Loots

MasterChef SA Season 3 episode 2 Bootcamp 2: Tomatoes create curved ball in Invention Test, scones decide Top 12!

MasterChef SA 3 ep 2 Tomatoes 2The pace in last night’s episode 2 of MasterChef SA Season 3 was a little slower than that of the first episode, but irritating was the judges whispering amongst themselves in evaluating the contestants, so softly that one could barely hear what they were saying.  The episode was designed to reduce the 24 contestant from Bootcamp 1 to the 12 Finalists going to the Nederburg MasterChef SA kitchen, ending off with a last-minute scone-baking competition.

The 24 contestants were still in the Cape Town harbour for Bootcamp 2, but now inside a warehouse, with cooking stations set up for each of them, and a Woolworths pantry too.   The brief for the Invention Test sounded easy enough, in preparing their choice of dish within 60 minutes. The pantry would be closed down during the episode, the contestants were told.  Chef and judge Pete Goffe-Wood said that the pantry was so well stocked that ‘if you can dream it, you can cook it’.  One contestant was looking for tomatoes for her dish, and was surprised that there were none. Midway a curved ball was introduced, Chef and Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 25 August

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   A Red Alert has been issued for Europe air travel, with the imminent eruption of the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland, the most serious alert indicating an expected ‘significant emission of ash into the atmosphere’.   Four years ago the Eyjafjallajokul volcano erupted, and caused international travel chaos, with 100000 flights cancelled at that time, threatening the arrival of passengers for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

*  Yesterday’s earthquake measuring 6,2 on the Richter scale has shaken San Francisco and Napa Valley, and is expected to have caused damage to bottles of wine in America’s prime winemaking region.

*   Sadly MasterChef SA Season 1 Top 4 Finalist Sarel Loots, better known by his Twitter handle @SarelvanSabie, passed away from a heart attack today.  In the last episode in which he appeared, he was described by the judges as having ‘a big heart’.

*   The 2014 SA Young Wine Show awards attracted 1972 entries. Trophies were Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season2 episode 1: A blend of Familiar Faces, Fresh Faces!

Last night the first episode of MasterChef SA Season 2 was flighted, to what seemed liked a smaller audience, if the Twitter reaction (or lack of) is anything to judge it by.  The first episode built a bridge between MasterChef Season 1 last year and the new Season 2, with some familiar faces, and many new hopefuls, some successful in making the bootcamp of 50 contestant amateur cooks, and many not. There are some interesting characters one can expect to go through to Nederburg, given the amount of airtime they received last night.

To demonstrate how far some of the MasterChef Season 1 Finalists have come since their participation in the show, there was a quick overview of some of the more successful Finalists: Deena Naidoo now has a part-ownership in Aayra at Montecasino, part of his so-called R8 million prize package from Tsogo Sun. Sue-Ann Allen, the runner-up, is described as the ‘head chef’ at the Market on the Wharf at the V&A Waterfront in The Times. Lungile Nhlanhla is Drum‘s junior food editor.  Ilse Fourie has a cooking show ‘Ilse Kook‘ on KykNET. Berdina Schurink has opened Bella Sophia Culinary Café in Pretoria. Manisha Naidu and Jade de Waal have participated in cook books.  Some Finalists missing from the Season 1 recap were Sarel Loots, who was a contestant on Kokkedoor, dessert specialist Thys Hattingh who now is Project Manager at the Compass Group, Guy Clark, who has an amazing chef’s job in Mumbai, and Brandon Law, who is Chef Deena’s right hand at Aayra.  It was wonderful to see judges Andrew Atkinson, Benny Masekwameng, and Pete Goffe-Wood again, feeling like old friends, and barely having changed in the year since we first got to know them in Season 1.

To a MasterChef SA newcomer viewer the action may have been too fast, and therefore confusing.  No background information was provided about the start of the process, namely the audition to have one’s cold dish tasted, brought along from home.  The episode started with the hot auditions, in which some of the 100 contestants received lots of airtime, while the others that received little coverage in the episode or were not even mentioned by name were predictably the ones that fell out.  Each participant had 45 minutes to prepare their dish, and 5 minutes to impress the judges whilst plating their dish, and the standard of the dishes presented to the judges generally was high at this very early stage.

Given the amount of time spent on them in the first episode, one can speculate that the following will be seen in the group of 16 contestants at Nederburg (today’s episode will focus on the rest of the hot audition):

*   By far the most airtime was devoted to the first contestant featured, being Zahir Mohamed, who owns Baked Bistro in Bakoven.  He already had a dream to open his own restaurant, and shared that he would open his own bistro after participating in MasterChef SA.  His father is the chef cooking for Manchester United and its fans in the UK. He would ‘cook my heart out’ on MasterChef, and wanted to make them happy, he promised the judges.  He was the first of many contestants to cry, the pressure bringing on the tears, and he explained that he had given up his job (at Brandhouse marketing Heineken) to participate in the reality TV show (as Sue-Ann Allen had in season 1). Zahir made a home-smoked rack of lamb with roasted garlic and a port jus, which Chef Andrew rejected for not having a smoked taste and the spices not coming to the fore. Chefs Benny and Pete disagreed with him, tasting the smokiness, and praising the sweetness in the beetroot and a rack of lamb prepared properly. Twitter: @BakedBistro @Foodie4CapeTown

*   Mohamed (also known as Ozzy) Osman is a student from Johannesburg whose English pronunciation was dreadful.  His pan-fried lemon sole served with a phyllo pastry basket filled with spinach was a hit amongst the judges. Chef Pete promised him 10 years in boarding school if his fish was raw inside, having introduced that his love for cooking stemmed from the dreadful food he had to eat at boarding school. He shared that he comes from a family of dedicated cooks. Chef Pete probably understated his praise of the sole as being ‘pretty well done’. Twitter: @Oh_so_Ozzy

*   Sisters Leandri and Seline van der Wat from Mahikeng (previously Mafikeng) both received their white aprons, but were kept on tenterhooks by the judges, calling them in one after the other.  They were the most gorgeous sisters, both in appearance, and also in attitude, each wishing the other one success in the show.  They lost their mother at an early age, and have enjoyed cooking together.  Selina made a Doublet of prawns served with Rooibos and thyme salt. Leandri prepared a Smoked snoek ravioli.Twitter:  @This_is_Leandri  @SelineVW

*   Neil Lowe was an interesting character, looking studious with his specs, and clearly trying to impress the judges with his terminology of ‘sous vide’, and ‘Modernist cuisine‘, by far the most sophisticated sounding home chef.  If anything, the judges were more critical of him showing off his food science terminology, and said that the proof lay in his understanding of food. His Mauritian sea bass prepared with a lemongrass and coconut velouté received the judges’ praise that earned him a white apron. Twitter: @NeilLowe

*   Kamini Pather is a food blogger from Cape Town that we know from our Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings, and appears to work at The Test Kitchen now. She spoke about wishing to use MasterChef SA as a launchpad to prepare a food portal for the Southern Hemisphere.  Her Indian lamb shoulder served with a smear of cauliflower pureé and mustard vinaigrette was highly praised by Chef Andrew, who loved its flavours coming together, and the taste of its spices.  She received her white apron. Twitter: @KaminiPather

*  The character that created the biggest impact was Sanet from Boksburg, with partly purple hair and a BIG personality, hugging Chef Andrew heartily when she received her white apron for her Port and Porcini risotto and chicken. When asked if she had dyed her hair for the programme, she said that purple is her colour, and that of her birthstone, her colour of luck.  She was not shy to praise herself in being kind and lovable!  She also cried, filled with emotion at having got so far.

Advertisements featured included those for sponsors Nederburg, Tsogo Sun, Woolworths (with beautiful food shots), new sponsor VW (with a tenuous food link), and Robertsons (many ads, but only one with Chef Reuben Riffel).  Other advertisers included Nespresso, Standard Bank, Spree.co.za, Dr Oetker Pizza Ristorante, and (oddly) Plascon paint.

For an overview of what is lying ahead for Season 2 read here. For behind the scenes information on the filming of Season 2 in January read here.   We want to clarify that M-Net has a strict procedure for interviewing contestants, all writers having to obtain permission from their PR Manager Ingrid Engelbrecht upfront.  The condition is that all writers have to submit their story to Ms Engelbrecht for approval and sometimes minimal editing before being allowed to publish it. We have agreed to follow this rule, so that we have the opportunity to write stories about the contestants during the course of season 2.  This appears to be an unusual procedure relative to other food reality TV shows, especially as we signed a confidentiality agreement before attending the Media Day.  This rule only applies to contestant interviews, and in no way affects writing a summary of each episode such as this one.

So how did the viewers judge the first episode?  The men were noticeably negative, using 4-letter words to describe how much they disliked the program.  Contestants Kamini and the two Van der Wat sisters received positive comments from them however.  Some power outages raised the question about repeat broadcasts. Some complaints were received about the loud music in the broadcast, overpowering the judges’ feedback. It is still early days for Season 2 of MasterChef SA!

POSTSCRIPT 12/6: Deena Naidoo, winner of MasterChef Season 1, Tweeted the following compliment about this blogpost today: As always a Great summary of Episode1 MasterChefSA season2 . You don’t miss much’.

MasterChef SA Season 2. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 19h30 – 20h30.  www.masterchefsa.dstv.co Twitter: @MasterChef_SA

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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 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 17: Finalists judged by their family, Sarel Loots ducks out!

It was a nail-biting episode 17 of MasterChef South Africa last night, with a dessert challenge, which sent Sue-Ann Allen and Sarel Loots into the Pressure Test, having to replicate a duck dish of Chef Peter Tempelhoff of number one South African Eat Out Top 10 restaurant The Greenhouse in Constantia. Sarel Loots was sent home, for forgetting to make the hazelnut gel for the complicated dish.

Not knowing why they were asked, the remaining four Finalists were asked what sacrifices they had made to be at MasterChef SA. Manisha Naidu said it was her husband playing second fiddle to the programme, and that she had to cut short her honeymoon in India to participate in the programme.  For Deena Naidoo it was staying away from his family.  Sue-Ann said it was giving up everything, including her job, to be at MasterChef SA. After this introduction, the Finalists were sent to their work stations, where a Mystery Box awaited them, the bottle of Amarula being the most visible.  To date the episodes have had very little Distell and Nederburg product placements, and this was one of the most branded episodes, in that the Amarula had to play a central role in the dessert. Other ingredients in the box were sweet potatoes, pears, risotto, oranges, cocoa powder, and coconut milk. They were told that a panel of secret judges would evaluate their dishes in a ‘blind tasting’, and they were promised ‘a reward to uplift you‘, being (then still unknown to them) the partners of Sarel (wife Lieze), Deena (wife Kathy), Manisha (husband Thoneshan), and Sue-Ann’s mother Gail.  They were given 60 minutes in which to create a dessert worthy of MasterChef SA.  Chef Andrew Atkinson reminded the Finalists that baking is about precision in the ingredient amounts, with Chef Pete Goffe-Wood saying that it would make the difference of a ‘sweet victory‘ or going ‘pear-shaped‘.

The four Finalists were sent to a viewing room, watching via a TV monitor how the dishes were evaluated anonymously by the four mystery guests, being their family members. Not having seen them for a number of weeks, it was the men especially that showed their emotions by crying in seeing their partners on the screen.  The ‘guest judges’ said that each of the four desserts were very different, and that the Finalists had done a ‘wonderful job’, it being impossible to judge which of their partners had made the desserts.  Sue-Ann said that ‘the judges were tough critics, but it was harder being judged by our loved ones‘.

Deena wanted to prepare a chocolate fondant, but there was no chocolate in the box.  He made use of his winning bell from episode 16, having won that episode featuring Chef Michel Roux Jnr from La Gavroche in London.  He used the lifeline bell to call on Chef Andrew, being ‘the maestro of chocolate’, asking him how he could make the chocolate fondant without the chocolate.  He was advised to use the cocoa, butter, vanilla paste, and sugar. Deena said that his wife Kathy is his harshest critic, and that he had ‘drawn from her positive spirit’ throughout MasterChef SA. She praised his dish as ‘delicious‘, without knowing that it was made by him, the custard served with it too, and said that the sugar work ‘had more craft in it’ compared to that which Sarel presented with his cupcake.

Sue-Ann made poached pear tart with Chantilly cream, and an Amarula reduction. Her fruit was too hot, and she had some problems with her pastry. Her dessert was said to ‘lack a bit of colour’, and her mother said it looked good enough for her to ‘order in a restaurant’. The sauce and the pears were liked, but the pastry not as much. Sarel made an Amarula cupcake, which he served with sweet potato crisps and spun sugar. Chef Benny Masekwameng was concerned that Sarel may have chosen too complicated a dish.  His dessert was described as ‘delicately balanced’, with ‘crispy sugar work‘, and not being ‘sickly sweet’.  Manisha cooked an interesting looking liquid, poaching her pears in the cocoa and orange liquid mix, serving it with Amarula custard and chocolate sauce. It was described as a ‘good dish’.

Three of the four family judges voted Deena’s Chocolate Fondant with Amarula Crème Anglaise and caramelised pears as being the best, and his prize was to take his wife Kathy on a picnic at Plaisir de Merle outside Franschhoek, test-driving the Hyundai Elantra which the MasterChef SA winner will win.  She proudly said to her husband of 18 years: ‘You are a Master Chef’!

Sue-Ann and Sarel were sent into the Pressure Test, and were introduced to Chef Peter Tempelhoff, who had made one of The Greenhouse’s dishes, for them to replicate, being Roast duck with hazelnut milk gel, confit duck pastilla, and honey roasted figs, served with an hibiscus duck sauce.  Chef Peter was described by Chef Benny as being at the cutting edge of culinary trends, being in charge of five restaurants at the Relais & Chateaux McGrath hotel group in Constantia, Hermanus, and Plettenberg Bay. They had 2 hours and 45 minutes to make the dish of six recipe pages, the most complicated to date, they were told.

Sarel said that on ‘this elimination day I will fight with everything I have’.  He recalled that he had ‘pulled through each time’, and that timing was important, and keeping his head together.  He confidently said that ‘timing was on my way’, and observed that he was ahead of Sue-Ann on time. However, Deena observed him from above, and cautioned him to slow down and to be gentle. Chef Benny told the other judges that Sarel’s spring roll did not look like one at all, and that it was not sealed at the ends, which would make the duck confit shoot out when fried. Sarel’s downfall was that he forgot to make the hazelnut gel, realising this in the last 15 minutes of the preparation time he had. He put as much on his plate as he could during the timing countdown. Sarel said that making the dish had been ‘like running a marathon’, and said that he was worried that it was this plate that would send him home.  The spring roll was judged to not be as crisp as it should have been. Chef Andrew said that while the thickness of the fat on the duck breast and the oil on the dish could put one off, the sauce had made it come together. Chef Andrew said that the hazelnut gel would have finished off and lifted the dish.

Sue-Ann placated herself by saying that she had made it through other Pressure Tests. She started with her stock first, something she had learnt in the reality show series. She said she would work ‘at the right pace to complete this task’. Discussing the springroll with Chef Pete, he said that it needed ‘a perfect coil around the spring roll’. She wasn’t happy with her first pastry attempt, and remade it. Chef Andrew was concerned that she was spending too much time on the spring roll.  She was confident of her dish, saying that she ‘did a damn good job of it’. Chef Benny said that it was a ‘good attempt’, and that she had done a lot of work on the spring roll. Chef Andrew said that the breast was a little overcooked, but that its fat was ‘nice and crispy’, and the hazelnut gel ‘superb‘, rounding off the dish. Chef Pete echoed the overcooking feedback, as well as the success of the gel, as the most important element, in bringing all the elements of the dish together.

It was the missing hazelnut gel that sent Sarel on his way, and he said that the MasterChef SA experience had been ‘amazing‘, and that he was ‘proud of what I have achieved’.  He added that he is a ‘soft guy’, but not given to tears.  He was told that his journey is only just beginning, and that he has a big heart.  It was announced that Chef Margot Janse of the Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français will be in the MasterChef SA kitchen next week.

Once again, it was noticeable that Chef Reuben Riffel appears to be increasingly cut out of the Robertsons TV commercials, only appearing in one of their six commercials broadcast during MasterChef SA last night!  It has been written with shock on Twitter, and this blog as a comment, that Chef Reuben is now endorsing Rama margarine, another Unilever brand!

POSTSCRIPT 25/8: It was very sad to see the news that Sarel Loots passed away from a heart attack this morning.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

MasterChef SA episode 17: Who will be booted out? Win with The Restaurant at Grande Provence!

MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have only 3 more gripping episodes to look forward to in this season 1. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 19.

We are also running the last of 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 17 today (10 July), 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!  Chef Darren’s latest dish, which I ordered on Friday, is ‘Bacon and Eggs‘, a starter with home-cured bacon, quail egg soufflé, brioche, and hollandaise sauce.

Karl Lambour, previously with Holden Manz and Constantia Glen, is the new GM of Grande Provence.

Tweet your prediction of which of the 4 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or write it as a comment to this blogpost. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 10 July at 19h30, at the start of episode 17.  The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize will go into the main prize for predicting the winner of MasterChef South Africa, in episode 19.

POSTSCRIPT 10/7: Cassandra Cupido has won the Grande Provence voucher, having correctly predicted that Sarel Loots would be eliminated in the Pressure Test tonight.  Congratulations.

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.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 episode 15: Blood, Sweat and Tears; Fishy in Paternoster, Khaya Silingile sauced out!

Last night’s episode 15 of MasterChef South Africa is one of the most beautifully filmed, on the beach of Paternoster, the ‘kreef town’ of South Africa, Sue-Ann Allen said.  The Red Team of Sarel Loots and the Blue Team led by last week’s dish winner Manisha Naidu had to cook their seafood platters on the beach. The Red Team lost the challenge and went into the Pressure Test, and Khaya Silingile had to leave MasterChef SA.

Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that Paternoster is a ‘quaint West Coast village, a magnet for chefs passionate about seafood’.  He spoke about the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), which educates consumers about buying seafood responsibly, and also to order it responsibly in restaurants. Unfortunately he did not explain it further, ‘green’ rated fish being in order to order and buy, while ‘orange’ and ‘red’ rated fish denotes fish varieties that are overfished and scarce, and should not be eaten.  To tie in with the programme, Woolworths flighted a commercial based on its fish offering, and also declared its SASSI responsibility.  The six Finalists were introduced to Chef Suzi Holtzhausen, who ran a cooking school in Johannesburg before moving to Paternoster eight years ago, where she runs a B&B and her restaurant Gaaitjie, beautifully located on the rocks at the edge of the beach.

The Finalists were divided into two teams, being allowed to choose their team members. Manisha chose Sue-Ann and Lungi Nhlahla for her Blue Team, while Sarel chose Deena Naidoo and Khaya for his Red Team.  They had to ‘celebrate West Coast local cuisine‘, and prepare in two hours a ‘Seafood Platter of a Lifetime’, with enough food for fifteen of Chef Suzi’s invited guests and ‘VIPs’, being locals of the fishing village.  The Blue Team chose to prepare grilled crayfish, marinated trout (an odd choice for a village catching its food from the sea), and fried calamari. Manisha chose to make a white wine sauce for her team’s fish dishes.  The team’s food was served first, and its food was described as being ‘nice and soft’ by a local, its prawns were liked, as were the oysters served with horseradish sauce. The Red Team also made prawns, deep fried calamari, yellowtail, asparagus, served with wasabi mayonnaise, tartar sauce, chilli sauce, lemon butter, and peri peri sauce.  Sarel had to gut the fish, and whilst doing so, he cut himself badly, and had to receive medical treatment.  Khaya and Deena carried on without him for a while, probably giving their team a knock.  The southeaster was blowing strongly, and Khaya tried to shield her team’s food from it.  The prawns and yellowtail were praised, the crayfish was said to be undercooked, and the good selection of sauces, especially the tartar sauce, was liked.  Manisha commented about how stressful it is to stand and wait for the voting.  Chef Suzi and her guests had to each vote, and the first team to obtain 8 votes was declared the winner, the honour bestowed upon the Blue Team.

The Red Team of Khaya, Sarel, and Deena went into the Pressure Test back at Nederburg, and they had to replicate the dish that won the silver medal at the Culinary Olympics in 1995, of which Chef Andrew Atkinson was a SA team member, and which he said took four years to perfect. It was a brioche encrusted Springbok loin, an asparagus tower with a mushroom and leek ragout, a peppadew relish, and served with a Béarnaise sauce infused with Rooibos tea, and charcoal and tomato pasta.  They had 2½ hours in which to replicate the dish.

Deena picked up a problem almost immediately, in that his Béarnaise sauce ‘split’, which he said ‘derailed my thought process‘, the first time we have really seen Deena worried.  He added that he was disappointed with himself, and said that ‘I don’t think I have performed adequately in this challenge’.  His sauce was said to resemble scrambled egg, his asparagus looked like a ‘leaning tower‘, the pasta was ‘spot on’ said Chef Andrew, with the right thickness and he could taste the roasted nutmeg. The asparagus lacked seasoning, and some of it was overcooked. Chef Benny Masekwameng praised the well-cooked relish. Sarel bumped his sore finger whilst preparing his dish, and said it throbbed in ‘ache and pain’. His Béarnaise sauce was prepared at too high a heat, and curdled.  The asparagus tower was praised, and all the spears were of the same length, Chef Pete said. The meat was described as ‘blue’ by Chef Pete, but Chef Andrew said that it was in order for game to be served rare. His ragout had  ‘just the right amount of balance’, and his dish was judged to be almost identical to that prepared by Chef Andrew, except for the sauce. Khaya made the pasta herself, saying it was not as easy as it looked. She admitted that she had never made Béarnaise sauce before, and her sauce ‘split’ too. The judges spoke amongst themselves about her preparation, saying that she had left things ‘to the last minute’ and that her pasta was too thick.  Her asparagus spears faced the wrong way, she was told by the judges, her asparagus tower looked like a ‘teepee’, not all the asparagus spears being of the same length. Chef Benny praised her for her meat being perfectly prepared but lacked some seasoning but this was counteracted by her spicy relish. Chef Pete found her meat dish to be ‘very bland’, not being able to taste the mustard under the crust. Chef Andrew added that the pasta was too thick, that the sauce had split, and that he could not taste the nutmeg.  She said that she was ‘content‘ with what she had prepared. As Khaya’s dish had the most errors, she was sent home, with words of praise for her passion, and she was encouraged to carry on with it. Chef Pete wished her well with her new family, having announced her pregnancy in episode 13.  She said that she enjoyed many highs and few lows in the programme, and that she had learnt patience by participating in MasterChef SA.  Her friend Lungi seemed more sad than Khaya herself, crying about her departure.

Exciting news is that Chef Michel Roux Jr, of two-star Michelin La Gavroche restaurant in London, is to be featured in episode 16 next week, conducting one of too few Masterclasses on the programme series.

POSTSCRIPT 27/6: Visiting Woolworths’ St John’s branch in Sea Point today, it was interesting to see their SASSI poster near the fresh fish section. Of concern, however, was that more than half of the fresh fish packs do not denote the SASSI sustainability colour rating. Of even greater concern is that they sell quite a lot of kingklip, rated ‘orange‘, defined as ‘conservation concern’ on its own in-store poster! They qualify ‘orange‘ fish, writing that ‘some ‘orange’ fish are caught when catching ‘green’ fish. This is known as bycatch. We only sell selected bycatch from well managed fisheries’! One wonders if kingklip qualifies as ‘bycatch‘. The poster also states that ‘Woolworths is working with its fish suppliers and WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to ensure sustainable seafood.’ It provides a cell number (079 499 8795) which one can sms to obtain the SASSI rating of any local fish type.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@Whale Cottage

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