Last night’s episode 15 of MasterChef South Africa is one of the most beautifully filmed, on the beach of Paternoster, the ‘kreef town’ of South Africa, Sue-Ann Allen said. The Red Team of Sarel Loots and the Blue Team led by last week’s dish winner Manisha Naidu had to cook their seafood platters on the beach. The Red Team lost the challenge and went into the Pressure Test, and Khaya Silingile had to leave MasterChef SA.
Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that Paternoster is a ‘quaint West Coast village, a magnet for chefs passionate about seafood’. He spoke about the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), which educates consumers about buying seafood responsibly, and also to order it responsibly in restaurants. Unfortunately he did not explain it further, ‘green’ rated fish being in order to order and buy, while ‘orange’ and ‘red’ rated fish denotes fish varieties that are overfished and scarce, and should not be eaten. To tie in with the programme, Woolworths flighted a commercial based on its fish offering, and also declared its SASSI responsibility. The six Finalists were introduced to Chef Suzi Holtzhausen, who ran a cooking school in Johannesburg before moving to Paternoster eight years ago, where she runs a B&B and her restaurant Gaaitjie, beautifully located on the rocks at the edge of the beach.
The Finalists were divided into two teams, being allowed to choose their team members. Manisha chose Sue-Ann and Lungi Nhlahla for her Blue Team, while Sarel chose Deena Naidoo and Khaya for his Red Team. They had to ‘celebrate West Coast local cuisine‘, and prepare in two hours a ‘Seafood Platter of a Lifetime’, with enough food for fifteen of Chef Suzi’s invited guests and ‘VIPs’, being locals of the fishing village. The Blue Team chose to prepare grilled crayfish, marinated trout (an odd choice for a village catching its food from the sea), and fried calamari. Manisha chose to make a white wine sauce for her team’s fish dishes. The team’s food was served first, and its food was described as being ‘nice and soft’ by a local, its prawns were liked, as were the oysters served with horseradish sauce. The Red Team also made prawns, deep fried calamari, yellowtail, asparagus, served with wasabi mayonnaise, tartar sauce, chilli sauce, lemon butter, and peri peri sauce. Sarel had to gut the fish, and whilst doing so, he cut himself badly, and had to receive medical treatment. Khaya and Deena carried on without him for a while, probably giving their team a knock. The southeaster was blowing strongly, and Khaya tried to shield her team’s food from it. The prawns and yellowtail were praised, the crayfish was said to be undercooked, and the good selection of sauces, especially the tartar sauce, was liked. Manisha commented about how stressful it is to stand and wait for the voting. Chef Suzi and her guests had to each vote, and the first team to obtain 8 votes was declared the winner, the honour bestowed upon the Blue Team.
The Red Team of Khaya, Sarel, and Deena went into the Pressure Test back at Nederburg, and they had to replicate the dish that won the silver medal at the Culinary Olympics in 1995, of which Chef Andrew Atkinson was a SA team member, and which he said took four years to perfect. It was a brioche encrusted Springbok loin, an asparagus tower with a mushroom and leek ragout, a peppadew relish, and served with a Béarnaise sauce infused with Rooibos tea, and charcoal and tomato pasta. They had 2½ hours in which to replicate the dish.
Deena picked up a problem almost immediately, in that his Béarnaise sauce ‘split’, which he said ‘derailed my thought process‘, the first time we have really seen Deena worried. He added that he was disappointed with himself, and said that ‘I don’t think I have performed adequately in this challenge’. His sauce was said to resemble scrambled egg, his asparagus looked like a ‘leaning tower‘, the pasta was ‘spot on’ said Chef Andrew, with the right thickness and he could taste the roasted nutmeg. The asparagus lacked seasoning, and some of it was overcooked. Chef Benny Masekwameng praised the well-cooked relish. Sarel bumped his sore finger whilst preparing his dish, and said it throbbed in ‘ache and pain’. His Béarnaise sauce was prepared at too high a heat, and curdled. The asparagus tower was praised, and all the spears were of the same length, Chef Pete said. The meat was described as ‘blue’ by Chef Pete, but Chef Andrew said that it was in order for game to be served rare. His ragout had ‘just the right amount of balance’, and his dish was judged to be almost identical to that prepared by Chef Andrew, except for the sauce. Khaya made the pasta herself, saying it was not as easy as it looked. She admitted that she had never made Béarnaise sauce before, and her sauce ‘split’ too. The judges spoke amongst themselves about her preparation, saying that she had left things ‘to the last minute’ and that her pasta was too thick. Her asparagus spears faced the wrong way, she was told by the judges, her asparagus tower looked like a ‘teepee’, not all the asparagus spears being of the same length. Chef Benny praised her for her meat being perfectly prepared but lacked some seasoning but this was counteracted by her spicy relish. Chef Pete found her meat dish to be ‘very bland’, not being able to taste the mustard under the crust. Chef Andrew added that the pasta was too thick, that the sauce had split, and that he could not taste the nutmeg. She said that she was ‘content‘ with what she had prepared. As Khaya’s dish had the most errors, she was sent home, with words of praise for her passion, and she was encouraged to carry on with it. Chef Pete wished her well with her new family, having announced her pregnancy in episode 13. She said that she enjoyed many highs and few lows in the programme, and that she had learnt patience by participating in MasterChef SA. Her friend Lungi seemed more sad than Khaya herself, crying about her departure.
Exciting news is that Chef Michel Roux Jr, of two-star Michelin La Gavroche restaurant in London, is to be featured in episode 16 next week, conducting one of too few Masterclasses on the programme series.
POSTSCRIPT 27/6: Visiting Woolworths’ St John’s branch in Sea Point today, it was interesting to see their SASSI poster near the fresh fish section. Of concern, however, was that more than half of the fresh fish packs do not denote the SASSI sustainability colour rating. Of even greater concern is that they sell quite a lot of kingklip, rated ‘orange‘, defined as ‘conservation concern’ on its own in-store poster! They qualify ‘orange‘ fish, writing that ‘some ‘orange’ fish are caught when catching ‘green’ fish. This is known as bycatch. We only sell selected bycatch from well managed fisheries’! One wonders if kingklip qualifies as ‘bycatch‘. The poster also states that ‘Woolworths is working with its fish suppliers and WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to ensure sustainable seafood.’ It provides a cell number (079 499 8795) which one can sms to obtain the SASSI rating of any local fish type.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@Whale Cottage