After the first 50 contestants were whittled down from 100 in the Hot Auditions in episodes 2 and 3, they met at Bootcamp, which was held at Swartkop Airforce Base in Pretoria, the oldest such facility in our country. Last night’s episode saw the elimination of 25 contestants in two challenges. Compared to how boring episode 2 was last week, last night’s episode cooked!
The biggest surprise was the arrival by military helicopter of the three judges Pete Goffe-Wood, Benny Masekwameng, and Andrew Atkinson. All 50 contestants looked fresh and smart in their white MasterChef SA aprons, and their hearts sank when they saw 50 chopping boards and knives set up on a long table. The challenge was to cut 1,5 kg of potatoes, delivered by military truck, into perfect chips 1 cm by 5 cm, with minimal wastage and not using a peeler! This challenge was to demonstrate the contestants’ skill, creativity, and passion, and to help the judges find South Africa’s next MasterChef. A total of 35 contestants was chosen on the basis of this challenge, which not only led to the chop of 15 contestants, but also to some cut fingers, Alistair cutting his fingers twice in this challenge!
We got to know more about Joani MItchell, who said that it is elementary to cut potato chips, having fallen out of Season 1 during the onion chopping challenge. She has spent the past year cooking and learning, to be better prepared for Season 2, she said. Her goal is to win, she said. Chantelle Schmidlin was filmed at her home in Riebeek West, sharing that she is a single mom, and said that she is confident to take on MasterChef SA. The judges were not happy with Chantelle’s potato chopping, and she had to keep going, finally chopping a place into the top 35, as did Karen Els and Ruan, being the bottom three. First to finish the potato challenge was Dawn Ngwenya (who explained that every township daughter had to peel potatoes the night before family functions), to great excitement, Joani finishing second. Alistair was the first man to finish the potato challenge. Sanet was very excited to hear the word ‘yes‘ about her potato challenge, saying it is the best word on MasterChef! Sad was seeing Zahir Mohammed, who had the most airtime in episode 1, get the chop in the potato challenge, with Pashi Reddy too. Those that fell out at this stage were disappointed that they lost out over a bag of potatoes!
The remaining 35 contestants went inside the hangar, and a cooking station was set up for each of them, with a backdrop of fighter jets. The Pantry was opened to reveal the Corn Challenge, mainly stocked with maize (mielies), mielie meal, and polenta. The challenge was to prepare a dish in 60 minutes of which corn is the hero, taking it to a new height, and demonstrating its versatility! The meals prepared included a number of fritter dishes (the one prepared by Kamini Pather receiving high praise from Chef Benny as the best that he had ever eaten), stir fry, a deep fried mielie burger, corn chowder with sweetcorn jam (made by Karen, the jam not well received by Chef Pete), dim sum (for which Alistair rolled the dough with a wine bottle), nachos, corn croquettes (the cinnamon Joani added did not make sense, she was told), and Hennie’s dish was said by Chef Pete to be by far the best dish of the day. Poor Robbie got the chop when he was told by Chef Pete that his maize spaghetti ‘looks like vomit’ from its appearance, and he was unable to eat it when tasting it, earning Chef Pete sharp criticism on Twitter. The dishes made by Gershwin, Chantelle, Linda (Monkey), Kathy, and Elhaam Adams all were criticised. In this section Shannon Smuts was interviewed in her office at Associated Magazines, where she is a designer on Good Housekeeping, sharing that she lives in Sea Point, is 28 years old, and that her parents owned two restaurants, She described herself as arty, passionate about cooking, and as a methodical cook. Tiron cooked a mean hanger steak in episode 2, and went through to the top 25 last night.
The episode ended with the elimination of ten further contestants, the level of suspense being kept high for both the contestants and viewers. The action was fast and not all names were mentioned of the contestants who were eliminated, but the group of ten leaving Bootcamp included Linda (‘Monkey’, to the disappointment of her Twitter fans), a tearful Chantelle Schmidlin (encouraged by Chef Pete to keep cooking and dreaming), Elhaam, Gershwin, and Emilio.
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. For an overview of episode 1 of Season 2 read here. For an overview of episode 2 of Season 2 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 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 or an analysis of MasterChef SA.
MasterChef SA Season 2. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 19h30 – 20h30. www.masterchefsa.dstv.co Twitter: @MasterChef_SA. Corn Challenge images from MasterChef SA.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage