Getting to know the contestants a little better over the past three episodes of MasterChef SA Season 2 made watching last night’s episode 4 exciting, as it was the last test for the judges to choose the final 16 contestants, to send them to the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg in Paarl.
The setting for the episode was the Nirox Art Foundation Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg, home to a Bootcamp challenge in Season 1 too. The challenge was a simple one, or so it sounded. The 25 contestants had to let themselves be inspired by the park, its beauty and sculptures, to prepare a breakfast. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood reminded the contestants that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that it is a meal that has huge diversity: it can be served hot or cold, and can be prepared savoury or sweet. The judges challenged the contestants to prepare their breakfast dishes to make it worthwhile to get out of bed for. Each contestant had a Weber for their meal preparation, some contestants being unfamiliar with using and cooking with it. They were encouraged to think out of the box, and ‘to step on the gas’ by Chef Benny Masekwameng. In talking amongst themselves, the judges were surprised that none of the contestants prepared the traditional bacon and eggs.
Seline van der Wat was nervous from the start, saying that she does not eat breakfast, and never prepares it. She fluffed her first attempt, she said, and started again, looking to nature for her inspiration. She tried to get her sugar to caramelise, talking to it, her ‘golden orb‘ working in the last minute, her dish representing a ‘road to good intentions’, with egg white floating islands ‘as cloud puffs’, a ‘trout stream’, fruit puree, and nutty oats crunch. Chef Pete said that he could not believe that her dish had worked out, and that it was a classic dish with an impressionist twist. Zane had a breakdown at the start, and had to be taken off set to calm down. When he returned, he made a dish with yoghurt, coconut milk, and stewed fruit, sharing that he was scared. The judges were not happy with it, for being unfocused, ending his MasterChef dream. Khumo Twala’s snoek salad was praised, her tender age of 19 years being mentioned.
Shannon Smuts said that breakfast is her favourite meal of the day, and prepared crêpes. The judges seemed uncertain about its chilli content, but praised it for being colourful. Kamini Pather prepared potato rosti with asparagus and ricotta, which Chef Benny praised as the best rosti he tasted on the day. Jason Steel laughed about his deja vu in peeling potatoes again, having been a previous Bootcamp challenge, preparing a Trio of Trout as a roulade, tartare, and ceviche in honour of his late uncle, who had passed away a week before the Hot Auditions, and who had taught him to fish. Chef Andrew said his dish was impressive. Leandri van der Wat made a dish of toasted oats, fruit, grilled pineapple, and an egg white snow topping. Amanda Beck, wearing suitably chosen pink pelican earrings for the day in the park, made a granola-based tart with créme fraîche, and M-Net posted subtitles so that viewers could understand her English. Neil Lowe’s dish looked amazing, and was the best interpretation of the sculpture park, his work of art inspired by the sculpture by Willem Boshoff.
Donovan smoked out when he had the weird idea to make smoked chicken breasts, adding cigarette tobacco and paprika in the smoking, which made his chicken taste of cigarettes, Chef Pete said. Joani Mitchell made pork fillets. Tiron Eloff made pancakes, the favourite of his gran who passed away two years ago. Ruan made a creamy savoury snack bar with white chocolate for breakfast, which cost him a place in the competition, as did Alistair’s coconut-infused rice and Korean style marinated beef, being ‘neither here nor there’, Chef Pete said. Sherwyn’s soufflé flopped, making him switch to flapjacks, but these were not judged to be good enough by the judges, losing his place too. Tumi Moche’s spice fruit salsa won praise, and his interaction with the judges was also subtitled. Mary had to give up attending a friend’s wedding to attend Bootcamp, which was worth her while, as her haddock frittata was praised. Sanet Labuschagne was on top form, baking a sponge cake, highly praised by Chef Pete during the preparation of the dish, which she was turning into French Toast served with pineapple jam and bacon. She was on a high, full of confidence, saying that she was in the competition to win, that she is a good cook, and that she is a strong individual. She cried when the judges tasted her dish, saying it tasted so good, confirmed by Chef Pete’s ‘wow’, saying that he was very impressed, that her dish was ‘bloody marvelous’, and that no person would think of serving cake for breakfast. She said that she is living her dream, and ‘wants to be me’! She said that for years she had undersold herself. Karen Els too said she is taking ‘Karen time’, ‘me time‘, and ‘mommy time’, living her dream. Herman Cloete’s poached haddock with asparagus was so good, it didn’t need bacon, the judges fed back. He said that he was looking forward to learning how to ‘plate‘ himself!
The fantastic quality Woolworths advertisements deserve a special mention, advertising that is good enough to eat. By comparison, the reflighted Season 1 Robertsons TV commercials are boring and dated, the ones with Chef Reuben Riffel having no credibility.
Returning to Swartkop Airforce Base, the judges announced the 16 Finalists, praising the general standard of cooking during Bootcamp, it being of a much higher standard than during Season 1 last year:
* Tiron Eloff : Twitter: @TironEloff
* Karen Els : Twitter: @kelsfoodie
* Khumo Twala : Twitter: @Simply_khumski
* Shannon Smuts : Twitter: @Shananigems
* Mohamed (also known as Ozzy) Osman :Twitter: @Oh_so_Ozzy
* Sisters Leandri and Seline van der Wat Twitter: @This_is_Leandri @SelineVW
* Neil Lowe : Twitter: @NeilLowe
* Kamini Pather : Twitter: @KaminiPather
* Joani Mitchell: Twitter: @joanimitchell04
* Mary Martin : Twitter: @mary82jn
* Sanet Labuschagne : Twitter: @ZanLabz
* Tumi Moche : Twitter: @BoitumeloMoche
* Amanda Beck : Twitter: @quirky_mandy
* Jason Steel : Twitter: @jasonsteel100
* Herman Cloete :Twitter: @cloeteherman
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, and for episode 3 read here. 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. Neil Lowe food photograph used with his permission.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage