How does one summarise Cape Town’s newest trendy hotspot that is a 32 bedroom Hotel, a rooftop bar with a resident mixologist, and a restaurant with Chef Guy Bennett at the helm, located in an area in which such an offering is not expected, that is simply gorgeous? The Gorgeous George Hotel, and with it the GiGi Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, will bring the Cape Town city centre alive again, an area that has not seen any innovation in quite a while. Continue reading →
Last week I invited my friends Clint and Llewellyn Lambert (GM of the Franschhoek Boutique Hotel, and influential blogger at Hospitality Hedonist) to join me for dinner at Le Petit Manoir in Franschhoek, which opened in July. Having had more than enough time to settle in, it was a severely (and costly) experience, of a completely dysfunctional restaurant. I apologise for the longer than average Review, summarizing my experiences with Chef Kevin Grobler’s cooking since 2015. Continue reading →
I had forgotten how hard it is to stay on top of a new series of MasterChef SA, and last night’s first episode of Season 3 was disappointing in being mainly an hour long tasting of 36 angelfish dishes, for the first day of Bootcamp. But the tough elimination challenge could not have been held against a more beautiful backdrop than that of Table Mountain, great marketing for Cape Town. The dominance of Reuben Robertsons Riffel was disappointing, being the new judge.
In the previous two MasterChef SA Seasons, more time was spent in getting to know the contestants, when they had to do basic tests such as peeling and cutting potatoes, and peeling and slicing onions. Last night the hot auditions in Cape Town (with Chef Pete Goffe-Wood and guest chef Henry Vigar of La Mouette), in Durban (Riffel with Chef Jackie Cameron, who has just left Hartford House to open her Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine) and in Johannesburg (Chef Bennie Masekwameng was joined by Chef Andrea Burgener, Continue reading →
The tension and heart palpitations were back in episode 4 last night, after a weaker and less exciting episode 3. The judges were more smartly dressed, stronger, somewhat kinder in their judgement of the dishes prepared, and even gave the ‘pressure test’ contestants some tips, so that they could make the timing deadline. Surprisingly they sent two contestants home last night, being Charles Canning from Cape Town and Fortune Kangueehi from Windhoek – see our prior evaluation of the 18 contestants.
Episode 4 was the first to be filmed at Nederburg, in the revamped Johann Graue Auction Hall, which was transformed into an amazing 20-station kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment, and a fully stocked Woolworths Pantry. The 1000 square metre venue was fitted out with 15 tons of wood, and 5 km of underfloor cabling. The kitchen was the contestants’ ‘home’ for two months, from January to March. Little is seen of Nederburg, if one did not know that it was the venue, but one could see wine vats in the background.
The first test put to the contestants was a ‘Mystery Box’, traditionally a box of mixed ingredients from which they have to prepare a dish. The contestants looked nervous when they opened the box, fearing what they would see inside. They were most surprised when they found a childhood photograph of themselves in the box. The task was to create a dish which would reflect their childhood, which was where their culinary journey had begun, and the contestants were invited by the judges to put their ‘soul on the plate’. The judges gave the contestants hope when this task was completed, by saying that their parents and grandparents would have been proud of them.
Not all the 18 finalists were interviewed or filmed in last night’s episode. In most instances the evaluation of only one judge was shown. Mmutsi Maseko made her mother’s stew of leftovers, and wanted to add vetkoek and vegetables to the dish, but ran out of time, meaning that her meat was not perfectly cooked, and she had to leave out the vetkoek and vegetables. Khaya Silingile was praised for the contrasting flavours, and how the sauce complemented yet another perfect salmon dish, being a roulade her grandmother used to make. Samantha Nolan’s croquettes, made in honour of her Dutch father, was voted the top dish of the day by the judges, with excellent chips, sauce, and relish. Lwazi Mngoma made a dish he called ‘Seven Colours’, which included butternut, beetroot, meat, coleslaw, and carrots. The presentation was criticised by the judges, the carrots were said to be raw, and ‘the flavour was not there’. Charles Canning made a beautifully plated modern take on Bangers and Mash, reminding him of his granny, but the judges felt it to be too basic, with too much mash. Jade de Waal made an ‘old school’ Avocado Ritz (right) with a twist, as croquettes, which received very high praise from Chef Andrew Atkinson. Fortune Kangueehi made a Sunday lunch meal her mom used to make, with mince and sweet potatoes, reflecting her (Namibian) culture, in which they eat meat and starch every day, she said. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood found her meat to be ‘very raw, not cooked enough, and not up to scratch’. Berdina Schurink made a tart, reminding her of Sunday afternoon tea on the farm, but the pastry case broke after baking it. She topped it with what was judged to be an excellent rich not-too-sweet ganache, over which she added meringue, which should have been baked more, Chef Pete said. Chef Pete judged the base of her tart to be too soggy. Manisha Naidu’s ‘Chicken Three Ways’, with chicken breast, a curry sauce, and stuffed drumstick, was enjoyed by Chef Bennie Masekwameng.
The five ‘worst dishes’ were judged to be those by Berdina, Fortune, Charles, Mmutsi, and Lwazi, and as ‘punishment’ they had to take the ‘pressure test’, in making koeksisters (the Afrikaans version) and koesiesters (the Cape Malay version), the difference between the two similar sounding dishes not being clear to viewers, the preparation and look of the two sweet pastries differing. The judges became technical about the heat of the oil, and the temperature of the syrups into which they had to be dipped, the five contestants being required to make two sets of dough and two types of syrups. The 75 minutes allocated did not seem to be enough time for all five contestants, as the two types of dough had to cool down for 30 minutes and 15 minutes. Berdina spoke about the importance of being methodical and accurate in baking, and how important it is to read a recipe, which each of these contestants were given. Her koeksisters were beautifully plaited, and judged to be ‘damn good’. Fortune moaned about the odd ingredient list, e.g. half an egg, and a ‘quarter of this or that‘! She admitted that she became mixed up, and couldn’t remember if she had added baking powder or not. Unfortunately for her she was correct, Chef Pete picking it up. She could not hold back her tears, realising that two problem dishes would cost her a place in the competition. Even worse was seeing a tearful Charles, almost shocked that he too had to leave the programme. Mmutsi was praised by Chef Bennie for her crispy koeksisters, and was told that she was ‘spot on’, and ‘that they were a perfect interpretation’. Lwazi only got one of his two koeksister dishes correct, and was lucky that he remained a MasterChef SA contestant in this episode.
The judges told all the contestants, who had been watching their ‘pressure test’ contestant colleagues from above, that baking ‘needs the fundamentals to be right’. Fortune was sent on her way, Chef Bennie telling her that she can cook, and that she cooks with passion. Charles was told that he puts ‘a lot of heart into food’, when he too was eliminated. Samantha and Manisha Naidu were appointed as team leaders, having made the two best dishes of the day. The judges ended off the programme by reminding the contestants to ‘be the best or to go home’! They were also told to ‘never take anything for granted’ in the remaining episodes. The judges certainly delivered on this ‘promise’, by eliminating two instead of only one contestant last night.
New advertisers were Allan Gray, in a beautifully shot commercial, and inappropriate for the programme Tiger Wheel & Tyre and Jeep. Commercials for sponsors Robertsons, Woolworths, Hyundai, and Nederburg were flighted, as were those for Kenwood, Outsurance, VISA, Nashua Mobile/Cell C, smeg, Albany Ultima, Spar, and electricity-saving.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
It was a different MasterChef SA in episode 3 last night, with less action and more tears. There also was a lot at stake for the final 25 contestants, a braai deciding which seven contestants had to leave the reality TV cooking programme, with the final 18 going through to the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg, for the remaining fifteen episodes.
For the first time one got to know the contestants a little better, but the editors of the show were not consistent in providing their names. It seemed that the chaps would have the advantage in this episode as the natural braaiers, but some of them did not make it through to the next round. Filmed at the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg, the home of 2011 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Roots, the challenge put to the contestants was to cook a meal worthy of being served at this fine-dining restaurant. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that the braai was the most basic form of cooking. The dishes were expected to jump out at the judges, to shout ‘eat me’. Chef Pete also said that the biggest challenge with a braai is to control the heat source.
Few of the dishes would have made it into Roots restaurant, if Twitterers were the judges! Worrying was that the judges had such a disparate evaluation of the dishes, there being little conformity of appreciation, in most cases only two of the three judges evaluating any dish. Chef Andrew Atkinson seemed over-dressed in his over-large suit for the braai, while Chefs Bennie Masekwameng and Pete looked more comfortable in their jackets.
Contestant Thys Hattingh admitted that he was not good at braais, and preferred making desserts. He made both a meat dish and a beautiful dessert, the latter highly praised by the judges, as was Khaya’s dessert. The judges tasted ‘pap and vleis’ made by Jade de Waal, fillet of springbok, Surf and Turf, seared tuna, lemon butter hake, stuffed sirloin, hake sandwich, rump steak, and more braai dishes.
Very few contestants escaped the programme without a harsh word from a judge, comments directed at Bonguwusa’s dish which was described as ‘not award-winning’, ‘tasted like cardboard’, was ‘overcooked’, and was‘inedible’, probably the harshest criticism of the evening. A piece of meat was described as a ‘brickette’. Another contestant cooking pap was criticised for the dish not working. Natalie was criticised for her dish being ‘too busy’, but she countered that it reflects her personality. She admitted that it was her first braai ever, loved by Chef Andrew and not liked at all by Chef Pete. Sarel Loot’s milk chocolate sauce served with his steak was described as ‘awful’ by Chef Andrew, and was criticised by Chef Bennie too, and could have cost him a place. One contestant presented part of her dish in ‘ghastly’ tin foil, a serious fail. Bruce’s steak was described as ‘too busy’, ‘not quite MasterChef’ standard. Bruce, Timothy, Elton, Cameron, Callie-Anne, Natalie, and Bonguwusa did not make the final hurdle.
The heat was really on and the tears started to roll when the 25 contestants had to face the judges in small groups, and were reminded of their problems of the evening, and to hear who would be leaving and who would go through to the MasterChef SA kitchen. The eighteen MasterChef SA finalists, with the Twitter addresses (most of them have started Tweeting) and city of residence from a Screen Africa listing, with 7 finalists from Cape Town and 5 from Johannesburg (with a surprise one from Namibia, given that is MasterChef SA) are as follows:
Babalwa Baartman @LateBloomer26 from Cape Town
Berdina Schurink @BerdinaSchurink from Pretoria
Brandon Law @TheBrandonLaw from Johannesburg
Charles Canning @CTHPipey from Cape Town
Deena Naidoo @Deenamcsa from Durban
Fortune Kangueehi @FKangueehi from Windhoek
Guy Clark @GuyClark2 from Cape Town
Ilse Fourie @IlseNel from Cape Town
Jade de Waal @FoodJams from Cape Town
Khaya Silingile @KhayaSilingile from Johannesburg
Lungile Nhlanhla @Lungzie from Durban
Lwazi Mngoma @LwaziMngoma from Johannesburg
Manisha Naidu @Manisha_Naidu from Johannesburg
Mmutsi Maseko from Johannesburg
Samantha Nolan @SamanthaLNolan from Cape Town
Sarel Loots @SarelvanSabie from Sabie
Sue-Ann Allen @Cook_Sista from Cape Town
Thys Hattingh @Thys_Hattingh from Rustenburg
Advertisers were largely the same as in the past episodes, including good-enough-to eat ads for MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths’ steak and boerewors, sponsor Hyundai, Emirates, Outsurance, sponsor Robertson’s, Revlon, smeg, Frisco, Nedbank, KFC, VISA, Parmalat, Kenwood, and sponsor Nederburg.
In the next fifteen weeks the viewers will get to know the individual contestants better, and their personalities no doubt will come to the fore. One hopes that the pace picks up again, this episode having lacked the pace and energy of the two preceding episodes.
POSTSCRIPT 4/4: In following the MasterChef SA final 18 contestants on Twitter, one wishes someone would teach them to Tweet. Thys Hattingh is just providing links to the MasterChef SA website about each of his fellow contestants, and Sarel Loots is showing politics already by having blocked us, no doubt as sympathy support for Sonia Cabano, Robertson’s former Social Media Manager. Even more surprising is that Jade de Waal has locked her Twitter account recently, and one must request to follow her, which contradicts the reason for being on Twitter! Is this an ego getting too big? Is she the MasterChef SA? Or is it because she is related to Sonia Cabano (de Waal)?
POSTSCRIPT 4/4: The Month, a newspaper distributed in the Winelands and Cape Town, has compared MasterChef SA and Australia. Our programme, after one episode, does not receive favourable feedback in the article.
POSTSCRIPT 5/4: I have double-checked with Chef Pete Goffe-Wood about the road forward, not having watched any other MasterChef series before. One of the 18 finalists will be eliminated each week from now onwards. The eighteen finalists know who the winner is, but they have been sworn to secrecy!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage