On 3 September the City of Cape Town stepped up its water restrictions to the next level, announcing further severe water saving measures. Compared to the previous Level 4 B restrictions, the new Level 5 restrictions retain the daily water usage target per person at 87 liters, and step up restrictions on the commercial usage of water. Tourists to Cape Town and the province will not be turned away as a result of the drought!
Tag Archives: Southern Sun
Does Cape Town need more new hotels? More than 700 new rooms to come in next 2 years!
It was a surprise to receive a media release from Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde, welcoming the development of a new R680 million mega Tsogo Sun hotel in the city centre, adding 500 bedrooms to the city’s room stock in 2017! Another 235 rooms will open in the V&A Waterfront, when the Radisson Red opens next year! Can the hospitality industry in Cape Town afford another 735 rooms when the oversupply of accommodation for the 2010 World Cup still affects every accommodation establishment?!
The Tsogo Sun hotel will be built on the recently demolished Tulip Hotel, on the corner of Strand, Bree, and Buitengracht Streets, with construction set to commence next month. The Tsogo Sun complex will consist of two entities on the Continue reading →
WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 19 June
Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines
* The latest quarterly survey by the Bureau of Economic Research shows a sharp drop in confidence in the Accommodation sector, with an index of 36 in the first Quarter of this year, to a projected index of 22 in this quarter, and down to zero in Quarter 3. Rates are seen to be reduced in Quarter 3, and Business Confidence has dropped from 76% in Quarter 1 to 56% in this quarter! (received via e-mail from the Bureau of Economic Research)
* Huffington Post praises Cape Town, and lists ‘Top 10 Things to do in Cape Town, South Africa‘, but in reality it lists far more than ten things: visiting Cape Point; the penguins at Boulders Beach; the Winelands, including Le Petite Ferme, Môreson, Haute Cabrière, Delaire Graff, La Residence, The Franschhoek Wine Tram, Tokara, Kanonkop, and Groot Constantia; Umi restaurant and the Marly hotel in Camps Bay; Robben Island; Table Mountain; a township tour; eat at The Test Kitchen, Pot Luck Club, ‘Bistro’ (sic) Bizerca ‘Signal‘ (sic), Charly’s Bakery, and The Tasting Room; the V&A Market on the Wharf; shopping at Merchants on Long and Chandler House; and High Tea at Belmond Mount Nelson.
* New Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has accused the DA-run City of Cape Town of buying the vote by spending millions of Rands for the title for Cape Town as World Design Capital 2014, Continue reading →
Ken Forrester Wines celebrates 21st anniversary with a tasting of 21 wines!
On Tuesday last week I was lucky to be part of a small group of writers invited to attend a special tasting of 21 Ken Forrester Vineyards’ wines, in celebration of their 21st anniversary. The range of wines reflects the multi-faceted personality of owner and winemaker Ken Forrester!
We met at the tasting room, and were welcomed with a glass of Sparklehorse MCC, and oysters and salmon canapés. It was the most beautiful day, and the tasting took place in Ken’s beautiful Cape Dutch manor house, dated 1694 on the gable, with the first vineyards having been planted in 1692. I loved the light yellow walls with a vine leaf mural all along the top part of the walls, the paintings, the vases with flowers, and the ambiance of and views from the Voorkamer.
Previously in the hospitality industry in Johannesburg, Ken and his wife Teresa moved to Stellenbosch in 1993, having bought the property with a house and a vineyard in a derelict state, Ken shared. He and Teresa painstakingly renovated the house, to return it to its former glory, and turned the farm around. Despite experiencing highlights as well as low lights on the property (e.g. the toughest ever year was 2002, with downy mildew a number of times), but Ken said that it was all worth while, and that they live in paradise. They live on a farm but they are almost in town, he added. In answering a question, Ken said that their new venture had to be in Stellenbosch. He had previously worked for Southern Sun when Sol Kerzner was in charge, and then moved into the restaurant industry, buying a share in Gatriles in Johannesburg. His restaurant industry background reflects in the joint ownership with his brother Allan of 96 Winery Road down the road from his wine estate, and he brought Gatriles’ famous duck and cherry pie recipe with him to Stellenbosch, where it has become a favourite too. Their property is 126 ha in size, and he has rented another property of equivalent size, which he and his team manage, to control the quality of his incoming fruit. Continue reading →
Cape Town & Winelands Winter Restaurant specials 2014 (and winter closures)!
The Winter 2014 specials for more than 90 Cape Town and Winelands restaurants follow below, and are updated continuously. We welcome information about new specials, and the feedback about your meals at these restaurants:
* Umi in Camps Bay: 3 course set menu R260, 5 courses R360, both include a shared bottle of Warwick First Lady. Order 3 meals off a la carte menu, get the 4th free. Slow cooked shortrib R110, Karan beef sirloin R95, Japanese beer marinated Karan beef fillet R120, pork belly R90, warm salmon and black bean R120, and fish & fries R85. Tel (021) 437-1802 (added 10/5/14)
* Pepenero in Mouille Point : Order 3 meals and get 4th (cheapest) free; Sirloin R89, Rump R89, Lamb cutlets R99, Seafood platter R149, Sushi platter R129, Crayfish tails R169, Veal schnitzel R95, Soup of day R40, Prawn platter R139, Oxtail R110, and Osso Buco R89. Half price sushi (selected items) all day. Daily. Tel (021) 439-9027 (updated 10/5/14)
* 5 Rooms, Alphen Boutique Hotel: 2 courses R170; 2 courses with bottle of Warwick First Lady (shared between two) R220; 3 courses R 220; 3 courses plus bottle of Warwick First Lady (shared between two) R 270. Sirloin R95, Baby chicken R95, Braised oxtail R110, Seafood bouillabaisse R135, Grilled Prawn R99, Slow braised lamb shank R115. Tel (021) 795-6313 (updated 10/5/14)
* Zenzero, Camps Bay: 2 courses R160; 2 courses with bottle of Warwick First Lady (shared between two) R210; 3 courses Continue reading →
Wine Sommelier training becomes Tourism priority!
A new R11 million one-year Sommelier training program has been launched by the Department of Tourism in conjunction with the Cape Wine Academy. It is apt that the program was launched in Franschhoek, which was described by Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk as ‘the best blueprint for wine tourism in SA’.
Launched at La Motte last month, the objective of the training program is to grow the skills of 200 learners in one of the identified ‘niche sectors being of particular importance for SA, wine tourism being one of them’, said Minister van Schalkwyk, reported the Franschhoek Tatler. He added that there were good job prospects once the trainees have completed their program. The new sommelier training program follows the Minister’s recent Youth Chef training programme.
Cape Wine Masters Lizette Tolken and Derek Ramsden are some of the lecturers involved in the Sommelier training program, which incorporates four six-week practical work segments in the wine industry. For the first practical, which has been completed, distributors and wholesalers such as Distell, Meridian and DGB, Vinimark, Smollens, Liquidity, Panniers, Wine Logistics, Swirls, NixAn Wines, Nicholson Smith, International Wines, together with Beyerskloof, Delheim, Simonsig, Vergelegen and Spier, all took in learners. The practicals will also include front-of-house training in restaurants, retail outlets and hotels such as Southern Sun, Ultra Liquors, Spar, Shoprite Checkers, The Butcher Shop & Grill, and The Baron Group.
Minister Van Schalkwyk has appealed to the private sector to support and enhance the programmes of his Department, and thanked it for the important role it plays in the development and promotion of tourism. “It is well known that the private sector bears the major risks of tourism investment, as well as a large part of the responsibility to satisfy tourists. Through its training programmes, government is committed to encouraging the further growth, development and profitability of the tourism private sector by providing already-trained staff, such as these sommeliers, who are immediately able to fulfil a productive role in the hospitality sector,” the Minister concluded.
While the Sommelier training program is commendable, one wonders why the South African Sommelier Association, under the chairmanship of respected Sommelier and Burrata owner Neil Grant, was not involved.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA bomb bursts about Deena Naidoo’s Tsogo Sun MondeVino Restaurant prize!
It was too good to be true. MasterChef SA came to a Grande Finale end earlier this week, and despite questions about the MondoVino restaurant being part of the R 8 million prize package not being answered satisfactorily, everyone accepted M-Net’s word that the winner of MasterChef SA would receive the restaurant. Ironically the screening of the Finale, with the 18 Finalists present, was held at MondoVino restaurant at the Montecasino Palazzo Hotel on Tuesday evening. At the ceremony, MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo received the ceremonial whisk to represent his prize of winning the restaurant from Graham Wood, MD of Tsogo Sun – Hotels.
Yesterday an explosive article appeared in The Citizen, disputing the prize and its value of R 7 million out of the R8 million package (the balance being R 250000 in cash from Robertsons, a car from Hyundai, a trip to Tuscany from Woolworths, and a course on winetasting by the Sommeliers’ Association of South Africa with a year’s supply of Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve). The article quoted Deena expressing his dissatisfaction with the prize value, saying that he only received a two year usage of the restaurant, and in fact will only be present at it ‘about five times a month’, according to the contract he signed with restaurant owners Tsogo Sun. The restaurant is to be renamed Aarya, after Deena’s daughter, and is currently being refurbished, for re-opening in November. Deena will add his ‘own flair to the menu and the restaurant would be a reflection of South Africa’, the newspaper reported.
In all the comments made on our blog and on Twitter about Deena, his humility and passion for cooking were praised. Uncharacteristic therefore was the quote which The Citizen attributed to him in their article: ‘I am not an R8 million man. The perception that I am sitting with that money is unfair and it is time for the public to know this. I don’t want people to to look at it as if I am this guy sitting with all this cash’. It was also made known that Deena has no intention of moving to Johannesburg, from his home in Durban, saying that despite winning the MasterChef SA title, his family comes first. He explained that the restaurant’s replacement value is R7 million, and this is how the R8 million prize package was quantified.
M-Net spokesperson Ingrid Engelbrecht denied that they had created a false perception that the MasterChef SA winner would receive his or her own restaurant, countering that Tsogo Sun had made ‘various, flexible options’ available for the winner, depending on where the winner lived, and their personal circumstances. We questioned the feasibility of the restaurant prize for non-Johannesburg residents, and received a similar reply from Ms Engelbrecht in April already:‘Regarding the restaurant prize, Southern Sun is happy to tailor-make the options in order to meet the needs of the winner and to ensure that all parties are happy going forward with this amazing prize. They will take into account factors such as the contestant not being from Johannesburg, having a family and any other obligations, and will assist to whatever degree is necessary’. Ms Engelbrecht is quoted in The Citizen article as saying that the winner of MasterChef SA won the position of Head Chef for a two year period, with a value of R 7 million. Deena is to receive a percentage of the restaurant’s profits, but will not own its title deed.
Yesterday afternoon we received the media statement from Priya Naidoo, Tsogo Sun’s General Manager: Communication, refuting the explosive article in The Citizen. We publish it in its entirety, and leave it to the reader to decide what’s cooking at the MasterChef SA MondoVino Restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg:
‘M-Net and Tsogo Sun refute claims made by the Citizen newspaper today that MasterChef South Africa winner Deena Naidoo is disappointed with his prize package, and that he will not be getting his own restaurant. This is factually incorrect. The total restaurant prize included (amongst other things) the full-time running and rebranding of the floor space. This arrangement was rent free, for two years. However, M-Net and Tsogo Sun structured the sponsorship to permit the MasterChef winner to choose between various options of participation in the restaurant, knowing that the winner might not be able to take up such a fantastic prize. Deena elected a joint venture operation where he will share in the restaurant profits and partake in the rebranding and relaunch of the restaurant. This will run for two years. This decision was based on the fact that Deena, his wife and children are unable to relocate to Johannesburg at this time.
“I consider myself privileged and am extremely grateful to have won this prize. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Naidoo. “At no point have I ever been disappointed with the arrangement I have with M-Net and Tsogo Sun. In fact, they have been extremely accommodating and flexible and are allowing me the chance to run this restaurant whilst keeping my current job in Durban. Tsogo Sun appreciates that my family comes first. I couldn’t be more excited to embark on this journey with them.” M-Net and Tsogo Sun explained the terms and options available to the Top 2 contestants while the series was still being filmed, and all parties were fully aware of what they would be entering into, should they win the prize, which consists of: R250 000 in cash, a brand new car, a trip to Italy and an Italian cooking course, a year’s free supply of wine and a sommelier course, as well as the Tsogo Sun restaurant opportunity. Naidoo adds, “I never expected to have R8 million in my bank account and any reports that suggest this are simply untrue. I wanted to clear up the misconception that this might be the case, and in the process, it was asserted that I’ve been let down by M-Net and Tsogo Sun. This is inaccurate.” Naidoo will embark on his restaurant adventure in November’.
The Citizen has written a follow-up story, confirming the accuracy of their article: ‘We reaffirm the accuracy and veracity of the story and would like to express our disappointment with M-Net and Naidoo’s reaction’. The newspaper stated that Deena had provided the information to their journalist, and that she had followed up with him to make sure that he was happy with the quotes attributed to him.
The Cape Argus wrote on Tuesday that ‘the bulk of the R8m prize comprises the anticipated profits from “owning” the restaurant’, quoting Ms Engelbrecht.
A Direct Message to Deena yesterday afternoon via Twitter, requesting guidance as to which story to believe, has not been replied to. Deena stopped Tweeting altogether after The Citizen article appeared yesterday morning. Whatever the outcome of this furore, the reputation of MasterChef SA, Tsogo Sun, M-Net, the chef judges, and its affiliated sponsors has been severely damaged by The Citizen article. If Deena did speak to the media, this will have been a major wake-up call to him to deal with the media with kid gloves!
POSTSCRIPT 28/7: Deena Naidoo started Tweeting in the early hours of this morning again, ReTweeting a link to an iol.co.za article. In the article he discusses the short-term future with his new restaurant: ‘While Mondevino has a strong Italian focus, Naidoo says, when he takes over, that will change. ‘Expect a menu of dishes ranging from pap and tomato gravy to milk tart and even my butter chicken.’ While Durban-born Naidoo said he would have liked to open a restaurant in his home town, this won’t be the case. “The location was earmarked for various logistical reasons. It is in a vibrant area with huge potential and, as industry leaders, I understand and trust in Tsogo Sun’s reasoning.” Even though a move to Joburg looks inevitable, he has no plans to uproot his family just yet. “I’m only thinking about the next three months for now and I will continue working (for Nedbank) and we will continue to stay in Durban,” he said’.
POSTSCRIPT 29/7: Deena Naidoo is quoted in the same iol.co.za article that the MondoVino restaurant will come under his ‘expert hands from November’, which seems inaccurate given that he has never run a restaurant before, and will not be at MondeVino more than 5 times a month.
POSTSCRIPT 29/7: In the Sunday Times today the newspaper reports that Deena Naidoo has not made himself available to the media for clarification of this media furore, as we too have discovered, still awaiting his reply, implying that Deena is now under the strict media control of M-Net’s PR department, one of the prices he will have to pay for having won MasterChef SA. The newspaper adds that Deena will receive a three month ‘business training’ programme, to teach him Financial, HR and Restaurant management. An odd sentence, to explain why he would only be at the restaurant five times a month, is: ‘Also, if I start running the place, I will lose the passion that brought me into this competition, and that is to cook‘! In contrast to media reports earlier this week, Deena is said to have indicated that he will not make drastic changes to the restaurant ‘just to show people that I am there‘!
POSTSCRIPT 30/7: There is another side to Deena Naidoo coming to the fore – from his gentlemanly and humble personality projected on MasterChef SA, he showed defiance when he Tweeted yesterday in reply to a question about cutting corners with the apples in his dessert he prepared in the Finale as follows: ‘instinct told me to do that hate following recipes‘!
POSTSCRIPT 31/7: Channel24 reported today that The Citizen has lodged a complaint with the Broadcast Complaints Commission of South Africa against Talk Radio 702 for describing its MasterChef SA report last week as ‘misleading’ and for M-Net’s Ingrid Engelbrecht calling it ‘very inaccurate‘. The complaint is based on the code’s requirements that facts must be truthfully presented, that opposing points of view must be presented, and that a right of reply must be offered. The newspaper says that the radio coverage about the newspaper’s report did not meet any of these requirements.
POSTSCRIPT 2/8: Caryn Gootkin, blogger and media writer, has used her legal background to analyse the MasterChef SA prize package, and found various descriptions by M-Net about its MondoVino restaurant prize. The broadcaster’s PR department refused to make the contestant contract available, which we were refused as well. She introduces the article by saying that the ‘ingredients for a disaster were there from the start‘! She believes the issue could contravene the Advertising Standards Authority code on trust.
POSTSCRIPT 22/8: Channel 24 reported today that an anonymous person has lodged a complaint of ‘misleading advertising‘ against M-Net for its alleged misrepresentation of the MasterChef SA MondoVino prize at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ASA has confirmed that the complaint has been lodged, but has not revealed the identity of the complainant. It is awaiting the response from M-Net’s legal team.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
SA Sommeliers Association to add sparkle to MasterChef SA winner prize!
As one of the main sponsors of MasterChef SA, Nederburg brand owner Distell has appointed the recently-formed South African Sommelier Association to develop a 50 hour programme that will enhance the wine knowledge of the MasterChef South Africa winner. This MasterChef prize is valued at R100 000, monies which will go to developing the Sommeliers Association
Neil Grant, the Chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association, and co-owner of Burrata, said that he met with Distell, and they brainstormed what the winner of MasterChef should know about wines, to complement his/her food knowledge. As they do not know who has won, they can only finalise the exact course outline once the MasterChef South Africa winner is announced on 17 July. The Wine education course will introduce the winner to the wine regions in the Winelands, and to the wineries of the region. The winner will meet some of the winemakers, will be taken to eat at Eat Out Top 10 restaurants, will meet other sommeliers, will do sparkling wine tastings, will be taught how to open a bottle of wine and sparkling wine, and how to pour them. The Sommeliers Association will also be available to the Masterchef South Africa winner on a consultative basis.
Neil will be supported in presenting the wine course for the MasterChef South Africa winner by his fellow Sommeliers Association committee members of Miguel Chan of Southern Sun, Jörg Pfùtzner of Fine Wine Events, Mia Mârtensson of The Winery of Good Hope, and Francis Krone of The Saxon. Nederburg will provide a year’s supply of its Winemaster’s Reserve, and its winemaker Razvan Macici will conduct masterclasses with the MasterChef South Africa winner.
The South African Sommeliers Association was established in 2010 to help uplift and promote the service of wine, and its mission is “To promote a culture of fine wine, food and service excellence in Southern Africa”. The Association will offer training and mentorships to grow the professional standards. It represents the profession in this country, and liaises with similar associations internationally. It will accredit sommeliers educated and trained by the association, promote the Sommelier profession, offer a platform for information exchange, and encourage an interest in the ‘culture of fine wine, food and service excellence’, writes Sommelier Miguel Chan on his blog. The Executive Committee also includes Higgo Jacobs and Kent Scheermeyer.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA Judge Benny Masekwameng sparks in the kitchen! ‘Face of Food’ at Tsogo Sun!
The highlight of my week two weeks ago was being able to sit down with Chef Benny Masekwameng, one of the three MasterChef SA judges, and Tsogo Sun Executive Chef. He is incredibly nice, and overwhelmed about how his own career and life has changed since participating in MasterChef SA, much like that of the Finalists.
Chef Benny was in Cape Town for the official launch of the Southern Sun rebranding to Tsogo Sun, which was held at The Cullinan hotel. Previously Executive Chef of the MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg, Chef Benny has been promoted to Executive Chef, responsible for promoting all the restaurants at the Tsogo Sun’s 95 hotels and 15 casinos around the country. Tsogo means ‘rising’ in Tswana, Chef Benny told me. Applying his MasterChef SA judging skills, Chef Benny challenged the Cape Town guests to participate in an ingredient test, identifying the 13 ingredients of the curry he had prepared.
I asked Chef Benny about the MasterChef SA prize offered of running the MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino, taking over his previous job. The MasterChef SA winner will receive three month’s training in people and financial support he said, and his/her hand will be held by a mentor as well as by Chef Benny. He said that the MasterChef SA reality TV show builds up the Finalists in what they learn, giving the winner a ‘crash course’ in running a restaurant kitchen, including ingredient pairing, budgeting, and food and wine pairing.
Chef Benny’s role in MasterChef SA was to support the contestants, many having made significant sacrifices to participate in the show. He said that he feels privileged to have been part of their journey, it mirroring his own journey of humble beginnings, and giving up many things to pursue his dream to become a chef. He grew up in Alexandra township in Johannesburg, and was strongly influenced by his mother. She started her own business, after taking a cooking course, selling pap, stew, salad, as well as vetkoek, outside nearby factories. While his dream was to become an Electrical Engineer, it was a visit to Durban to visit his friends that led him to Technikon Natal, and he decided to study a 3-year Catering Management course in a city that gave him some space from home. On graduating he was appointed as a Trainee at the Hilton Hotel in Durban, where he worked for more than six years, promoted over this period. The job took him overseas regularly, to promote local food at events held at South African embassies, and it was these events that taught him ‘showmanship’, in interacting with the guests. He moved to the Elangeni Hotel, his first Southern Sun appointment, and he has stayed with the group since then, moving back to Johannesburg as Executive Sous Chef at the OR Thambo Southern Sun. The promotion to Executive Chef at MondoVino restaurant happened 16 months ago, and since the completion of Season 1 of MasterChef SA he is in charge of promoting all the Tsogo Sun restaurants, being its ‘face of food’.
MondoVino restaurant is Italian-themed, but with an African influence, also serving bobotie, oxtail, pap and wors, chakalaka, and its design is ‘modern, young, and hip’. It is ‘casual dining‘, and offers ‘3 – 4 star service‘, he said. It has shifted in its focus on being family-orientated, with a special menu for the children.
M-Net has a five-year licence for MasterChef SA, and there is talk of a Season 2. Chef Benny said it is a bonus for him that Tsogo Sun is a sponsor. His own kitchen staff is watching MasterChef SA, and it gives them hope that they too can develop as he has done, and they are proud to work with him. For him it has been special to meet all the young aspirant chefs, and to inspire them. He is keeping up to date with many of them, and he is delighted about the encouraging messages he is receiving, and the promotion and growth it has given him personally, much as the MasterChef SA Finalists have grown and succeeded too. Just after MasterChef SA started airing, his first baby daughter Dimakatso was born, named after his mother. We laughed about his ‘TV flirt’ with Lungi Nhlanhla, about whom he says that ‘she knows how to combine her flavours’, and that ‘she can cook’. With fellow Finalists Deena Naidoo and Manisha Naidu, Lungi knows her flavours. Yet, he said, all eighteen the Finalists had the potential of getting to the top.
Fellow judge and Chef Andrew Atkinson is a natural ‘clown‘, he said, always making jokes on set, and these kept the energy flowing. But, jokes aside, he knows his food. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood was full of jokes too, but he was ‘tough on camera, telling it like it is‘. He praised his fellow MasterChef SA judges, who had more cooking experience than he does, but always treated him as an equal and made him feel part of the judging team, even though Chefs Andrew and Pete had worked together at the Beverly Hills hotel many years ago. He was inspired by them, and are two of our country’s best, he added. He can exchange information with them now, and pick up the phone to them, being ‘brothers’ now! He assured me that there were no production influences in the judging of the dishes and elimination of the Finalists, and confirmed that the Finalists eliminated simply were those that made the most mistakes in a particular challenge.
To tie in with its sponsorship of MasterChef SA as a ‘Hospitality Host’, and Chef Benny’s involvement in the show as a judge, Tsogo Sun has launched Wednesday Night Dinners, a ‘themed dish of the week inspired by the show, and you be the judge’! The hotel group is advertising this in the Sunday Times Food Weekly.
Chef Benny has grown as much as his Finalists on MasterChef SA have, and he said that initially it was ‘terrifying’ to be on TV, surrounded by nine cameras, but now he is used to it, and he would love to do more of it, having discovered a new side of himself. Meeting with Chef Benny for about an hour reinforced what a nice person he is, the reason why he is so well-liked by the MasterChef SA TV viewers.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
MasterChef SA: ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Guy Clark is a model finalist!
One of the nicest MasterChef SA Top 18 finalists must be Guy Clark, from his appearances in the reality TV show series to date, always staying in the background, with never a hair out of place. Last week we had the privilege to meet with him for an interview at I ♥ my Laundry.
A surprise was that Guy had to run the interview request past Ingrid Engelbrecht, the M-Net PR executive, and ideally she wanted a list or questions which she could approve. As the meeting was planned as an informal chat, Guy was comfortable that we could meet without such a list. He asked me to send a copy of this article to Ms Engelbrecht, for her approval, demonstrating the extreme confidentiality which the 18 finalists have been subjected to via a contract, which could see the MasterChef SA title being removed, and M-Net suing the contestant(s) leaking any information for damages ‘which one would have to pay off for the rest of one’s life’, Guy said. Of all the 18 MasterChef SA finalists, Guy has been the most quiet on Social Media, especially on Twitter, not having Tweeted at all. He says that they were encouraged to open a Twitter account, and given Tweeting guidelines by M-Net. He claims to not really know how to do it! He told me that he does not go out to public bars, to avoid drinking, which could possibly lead him to inadvertently slip any information. Given that they are in the public domain now, contestants must be responsible with their Tweets, he said. Guy and his fellow Finalists will be in an information ‘bubble’ for the next 13 weeks, all knowing who has won MasterChef South Africa, and all subject to the same stringent confidentiality conditions. M-Net is watching their Social Media output closely, to ensure that no one slips any details. While the finalists may Tweet about previous episodes, they may not write or say anything about any of the remaining episodes.
I asked about the prize, and Guy told me that there is no second or third prize – the winner of MasterChef SA takes it all, a prize in value of R8 million, including R250000 spending money from Robertsons, a Hyundai car, a trip to Italy paid for by Woolworths, a sommelier course and wines from Nederburg, and a job as the Chef at MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino for a year. The restaurant job prize had intrigued me, as it could be discriminatory to non-Johannesburg-based finalists, as well as to stay-at-home moms, for example. Guy told me that they had thought about this, and that the restaurant prize can be taken in various ‘packages’, not being able to explain exactly how this will work or what this means.
The past few months of MasterChef SA have been so exciting and demanding that Guy appeared to not be able to remember exactly when they did the ‘Bootcamp’ in Johannesburg, and when they started at Nederburg outside Paarl. He said that he had lost all concept of time whilst on the show, not being able to judge how quickly time was passing, being totally dependent on the MasterChef SA clock. All 18 the Finalists stayed at Augusta guest house outside Paarl, and the Finalists who were booted out had to go home immediately. They all returned for the filming of the last episode, in which the winner of MasterChef SA is announced. Guy spoke fondly of Charles Canning, a good cook and therefore a surprise elimination in episode 4, who was regarded as their rock, ‘the dad of the house’, who spoke to the producers on the Finalists’ behalf when he was still there.
Guy gave up his job as a property broker for two months, with the blessing of his bosses. This has been his job for a number of years, after the family business Clark Property closed down, one in which his dad was a property developer and his mom an interior decorator. He laughed when he told me that his career as a model was short-lived, having only appeared in one unpaid shoot. Guy’s first cooking was when he was 14 years old, trying to impress a girlfriend by making pasta alfredo for her. The good reception it received gave him confidence, and he increasingly cooked, volunteering to cook dinners at home. He honestly said that his mom was not the best cook, preparing ‘sensible dishes’. He is self-taught, and is interested in flavour pairing in food. His childhood memory dish, which was not shown in episode 4, was a dish which reflected both his parents: his dad loves Thai food, and his mom chicken and grapefruit, so Guy made a Thai sauce reduction which he stuffed into a chicken breast, and served with Julienne vegetables and caramelised grapefruit.
Six days a week over a two month period the Finalists started their MasterChef SA day at 5h00 and they returned to The House at about 20h00. Guy couldn’t really tell me where the time went, but some if it went to setting up the film production, to filling up the Pantry, to meals they had on set, and the filming of each Finalist’s dish, not all of which has been seen in the past four episodes. In the ‘dead waiting time’ they struck up friendships amongst each other, and learnt from each other. The Finalists had to hand in their cellphones, not being allowed any communication with the outside world. Guy said that it was intimidating to hear the use of terminology about cooking used by the other Finalists, but then some of his cooking knowledge also impressed some of the other contestants. Hearing that Finalist Thys Hattingh owns 1000 cookbooks was intimidating, he said. Each time they prepared a dish, they had to set aside a side plate portion of the dish, so that the judges could quickly taste all Finalist dishes off-camera while they were reasonably hot, leaving the beautifully plated (but by now cooled down) dishes to be filmed, and which the judges tasted whilst being filmed. Each Finalist was also interviewed about his/her dish after it had been prepared, which interviews were cut into the shots of them cooking, as if they were taking a break to speak to the camera, for the episodes.
Each of the judges had a specific role in the evaluation of the dishes and MasterChef SA Finalists: Chef Pete Goffe-Wood judged the efficiency, accuracy, and the Finalists’ ability to handle the ‘heat in the kitchen’; Chef Andrew Atkinson is very nice, the best chef of the three, Guy said, having won lots of gold medals for his food preparation, and his task was to judge the plating and flavours; Chef Bennie Masekwameng looked smart in his suits on the set, but off-camera he was very ‘Johannesburg chilled, cool, and relaxed’. He looked after the ‘heart’ of the Finalists, and was particularly good at evaluating the African dishes.
Not all Finalists’ dishes are shown in each episode, as was evident in episode 4, and a number of the Finalists questioned on Twitter why their dishes were excluded. Guy was critical of them about this, as he said the producers have given and will give a fair spread of coverage to each Finalist throughout the 18 episodes. In each episode some of the best and worst dishes are shown. The bottom five went into the ‘Pressure Test’ in episode 4, but in the episodes ahead it may not always be five going into the ‘Pressure Test’ – it appeared that whole teams could have been subjected to this too. In episode 5 the trailer intimates that the team members had to vote out a Finalist, a hard task as they had become friends. Recipes were provided for the ‘Pressure Test’ challenges. Not yet shown was the Master Classes done by outside real world chefs about how to make their signature dishes, to which only the Finalists who had received a ‘reward’ for good work were invited. Guy could not tell me who the chefs were, but I speculated that Chef Reuben Riffel, endorsing MasterChef SA sponsor Robertsons’ products, was one of them, to which he did not reply. The Robertsons’ TV commercials have the pay-off line ‘Masterclass’, and on their website Chef Reuben shows how to make really basic dishes such as garlic bread, and chocolate and banana. I asked Guy what role Chef Vanie Padayachee played, now Chef at Le Quartier Français, and he said that her role would be revealed over time. He praised Chef Arnold Tanzer, the Culinary Director on the show, who filled up The Pantry, pre-tested recipes, and checked the Mystery Boxes.
Guy had only watched four episodes of MasterChef Australia, and they all watched MasterChef America while at The House. He said that MasterChef SA has its own unique identity, and is not as brutal as the USA version. The local judges were fair, and did not attack the integrity of the Finalists, only the dishes being criticised. Their confidence surged when they received praise from the judges, but could as easily be dashed by criticism. The cameras focusing on them, the time constraints, and the judges asking questions created pressure and ‘cooking adrenaline’. Finalist Thys used a lot of expletives while cooking, and received a few words about this from the judges, none shown in any episodes to date (the programme has a PG13 rating). He has used them in his Tweets too.
Guy has two reasons for participating: to test what he is capable of in terms of cooking, and to attract awareness for his Black White Green rhino conservation fund, for which he is generating monies by printing rhino pictures for sale. He said that he will donate half his prize money to the fund, should he win. The R8 million prize package was a very strong motivation to give his best. He was inspired most by Finalist Sue-Ann Allan, also from Cape Town, who has the same age, and who impressed him by giving up her job as a lighting designer and selling her car, so that she could participate in the show. Guy warned that the winner is not predictable, and that there were some ‘wild cards’ to come in future episodes.
Should Guy win MasterChef SA, he will give up his career and follow his real passion, being cooking, and will open a restaurant. I asked if it would be in Cape Town, and he answered that it would be where ‘the money is’, hinting at Johannesburg.
PS: Ingrid Engelbrecht, Senior Publicist at M-Net, sent us this information about the contestant confidentiality: “The confidentiality clauses in the contestants’ contracts with M-Net are the standard clauses that appear in any agreement between a contestant and the broadcaster when a series has been pre-recorded. They are in place so that no information is leaked about the show’s content in advance, thus spoiling the viewing experience of the show for fans”. She also explained (vaguely) how the restaurant prize could be dealt with: “Regarding the restaurant prize, Southern Sun is happy to tailor-make the options in order to meet the needs of the winner and to ensure that all parties are happy going forward with this amazing prize. They will take into account factors such as the contestant not being from Johannesburg, having a family and any other obligations, and will assist to whatever degree is necessary”.
POSTSCRIPT 16/5: Guy Clark was eliminated from MasterChef SA last night, for his soufflé not meeting the judges’ approval. When I called to commiserate today, he was ever the gentleman, saying that the judges’ decision was fair, and that they walk around the finalists all the time, having a good idea of what they are doing. Exciting news is that he is making his dream to become a chef come true, starting at a well-known Cape Town restaurant group.
POSTSCRIPT 19/5: It’s official: Guy Clark is starting as a chef at the Madame Zingara restaurant group on Monday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage