Episode 5 of MasterChef SA seemed all over the show last night, incorporating a Harvest Celebration lunch for 40 Nederburg staff, a Franco-African gourmet lamb dish, interspersed with a quick visit by Chef Michael Broughton, challenging a broad spectrum of cooking skills of the Finalists, and resulting in the elimination of Berdina Schurink. The episode lacked the tension of the previous four, and it was described as ‘boring’ and an ‘embarrassment‘ by some viewers after the show.  This episode allowed one to see and hear more of the Finalists.

The Harvest Celebration lunch was a nice idea, given Nederburg’s sponsorship of MasterChef SA, and it allowed filming on the wine estate, and for the lunch to be served outside the striking historical Cape Dutch manor house.  The 16 Finalists were divided into the Red and Blue Team, last week’s winners Manisha Naidu and Samantha Nolan having been elected as team leaders, and each choosing seven Finalists for their teams. The brief was to prepare two courses, the Blue Team led by Manisha, serving a Tapas starter, quail (stuffed by Lwazi Mngoma, something he’d never prepared before, he said), ostrich, and chicken (rolled by Mmutsi Maseko, who held up the pace) served with a mushroom and white wine sauce.  The Red Team led by Samantha prepared a pork shoulder (which Chef Pete Goffe-Wood did not allow to be served initially as it was not cooked on the open fire for long enough), an Asian sauce, asparagus custard, as well as a pear and peach tart in phyllo pastry, made by Thys Hattingh. Both teams had two hours to prepare their dishes, and the Red team ran a little late in their preparation.  Khaya Silingile poured the wine and served the food for the Blue team, and her Marketing profession showed in the ‘marketing’ of her teams’ dishes for votes, while Sarel Loots introduced the Red team’s work in Afrikaans, a clever move, given that most of the Nederburg staff were probably Afrikaans-speaking. The guests had to vote by placing a basket of grapes on a trailer representing their vote, and the first team to reach 21 votes was declared the winner, being the Red team. Thys’ dessert probably clinched the winning vote for the team.

Michael Broughton is an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant chef at Terroir at Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch, and his involvement in the program was not pre-announced.  He was the ‘reward’ for the Red team for winning, and he conducted an exclusive Masterclass for the team, styling a beautiful dessert, and showing them how to prepare fish, presented very quickly.  The take-out for the Finalists was that ‘keeping it simple and making it look beautiful is enough’, said Sue-Ann Allen.

Pre-announced was the participation of Chef Coco Reinarhz of Sel et Poivre and Le Petit Sel Bistro in Johannesburg, cooking Franco-African fusion cuisine, and proudly promoting the ‘unique beauty, fine flavours and unsurpassed richness of African cuisine‘, the restaurant’s website states.  He has co-authored a cookbook about African Cuisine with Anna Trapido.  Chef Coco originates from Burundi. He spoke with a beautiful French accent, and was firm in his evaluation of the food prepared for him.  Nice was the collegiality from the other Finalists, giving tips from above, for example how to get to the heart of the artichokes. The judges discussed that cooking to time is a reality for restaurants, always under time pressure.  Chef Pete looked smart in a white hat while the Harvest Celebration was filmed, and even wore a suit for Michael Broughton’s visit, not suiting his more relaxed lifestyle. For the first time Chef Andrew Atkinson looked more relaxed, and did not wear a jacket nor a waistcoat.

Out of the losing Blue team of eight, team leader Manisha was asked to chose the three ‘weakest’ members of her team for the Harvest Celebration lunch to go into the ‘Pressure Test‘, and she chose Berdina (for having done the least in preparing the lunch, she said), Mmutsi (for having been slow in preparing the chicken rolls), and most commendably, demonstrating her leadership skills, she volunteered herself, for being the team leader and therefore responsible for the outcome.  Chef Coco showed the three ‘Pressure Test’ Finalists his perfectly plated and cooked rack of lamb, with artichokes, breadcrumbs and baba ganoush, and they were given 90 minutes to replicate his dish. Berdina had cooked a perfect lamb dish for her Hot dish audition, but she seemed distraught at having to go into the ‘Pressure Test’ for the second time.  She approached her meat ‘like a skillful surgeon’, commented Deena Naidoo, the other 13 Finalists watching from above. Berdina said confidently that she had prepared many a rack of lamb before, but she spent too much time on its preparation, and too little on its cooking, it being underdone and ‘disappointing‘, said Chef Pete Goffe-Wood, especially relative to her perfect Hot Dish audition. They loved her plating (photograph below), it looking very similar to that by Chef Coco, reminding the Finalists that one eats ‘with one’s eyes too’. Manisha admitted that lamb is not her strength, and that she was not confident in its preparation, having ‘a history of overcooking’ her meat.  She was mocked by Chef Coco when she said that she had not tasted her lamb before serving it, it being the main element of her dish. The look of her dish was described as a ‘bit rustic’, the breadcrumbs were judged to be too chunky, as was the baba ganoush, but the sauce was nicely reduced.  Mmutsi likes to cook meat ’till I kill it’, and preparing it medium was a new way to cook meat for her.  The judges were complimentary about her dish, praising her well seasoned lamb and great jus.

Berdina was eliminated by the judges, and she wept when she said that she had sacrificed so much to be at MasterChef South Africa, and is determined to be a chef. She was encouraged to keep cooking, to ‘express her amazing passion’, and was told that her cooking journey is only beginning now.  On Twitter many viewers expressed that it was unfair that Berdina was eliminated.

Being largely a group exercise in episode 5, there was no Finalist that stood out in this episode in terms of cooking skills, making the question as to who will be MasterChef South Africa still unpredictable at this stage.

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