Just like a brand-new pan with non-stick coating, M-Net’s change for the fourth season of MasterChef South Africa from a weekly to daily episodes, just like MasterChef Australia, is nothing but a pleasure to watch.
The first week of MasterChef SA underscored several things: Chef Zola Nene is a national treasure.
Then, no matter how pessimistic you might be or become about South Africa, our strength is our people, diversity, tenacity, creativity, drive to succeed, and personal stories of determination and endurance. Even though South Africa is not always recognised on the world stage, we don’t have to stand back one step with what we have and what we can achieve.
Here’s our recap of Week 1
CHALLENGE: Childhood memory dish
The 20 contestants had to put forth a starter, as a dish inspired by a childhood memory, telling the judges who they as contestants are.
WINNERS: Dr Harri and Didi, who the judges said, “followed the brief to a tee”.
WHO LEFT: Sylvie, Matthew and Lisa with the judges telling them, “you all fell short today”.
The judges specifically told the contestants that first impressions count.
It was also interesting that the season didn’t waste any time mollycoddling either the contestants or DStv viewers. Three were immediately sent home.
That sent a strong message that this is a serious show, a serious competition, that there isn’t time to waste – and above all, that first impressions really do count!
CHALLENGE: A dish inspired by one of the judges’ past.
Zola Nene’s “isinkwa sombilla” with steamed mielie bread, cheese sausage and apple chutney her maternal grandmother made. Justine Drake’s Asian noodle broth of ramen, fragrant meat and vegetables, or Gregory Czarnecki’s “duck a la Orange” with duck fat confit potatoes and sultana pancakes.
WINNERS: Tasnim, Charmaine and Alicia.
WHO LEFT: Mohammed after Justine said that his Asian noodle broth dish “despite any technical difficulties there wasn’t the naunce of flavour that we look for and sometimes that’s just the way it is.”
In the second episode, the contestants really started to struggle. Since it depended on drawing lots, the contestants all instinctively knew that Gregory’s duck was the most difficult of the three dishes to get. They also seemed to become more familiar with their workstations and tried out kitchen devices like pressure cookers and pasta machines.
CHALLENGE: Fine-dining lunch takeaway.
In the season’s first team challenge, the contestants were divided into a red and blue team. The winning team would watch the losing team’s members compete individually on Day 4. The challenge was to make 24 lunch boxes with two fast fine-dining dishes.
The first dish had to use sustainably sourced fish, while the second dish had to be a fine-dining take on an iconic South African workers’ lunch.
The red team prepared Amasi fried fish with slap chips and tartar sauce and a Durban lamb curry for a ubuntu bunny chow with spinach dombolo (dumplings) salsa.
The blue team made a Cape Cream Mille-Feuille sandwich and Putu Arancini balls that had a spicy mince filling and chakalaka.
WINNER: Blue team.
WHO LEFT: No one, but the red team members would compete on Day 4 individually while the blue team members sit out.
Chef Bertus Basson made his appearance as the first guest judge, and it was a great idea that the lunch boxes went to health care workers of the nearby Somerset Hospital.
CHALLENGE: Judges’ favourite snacks.
The contestants each had to come up with a dish inspired by one of the three judges’ favourite snacks, which could be hot or cold, sweet or savoury, a starter, a main course, or a dessert. Judge Gregory warned and implored the contestants not to spoil their childhood treat memories.
WINNERS: Onti and Charmaine.
WHO LEFT: Masedi, wholly underwhelmed with a Jelly babies concoction that the judges said they would never eat again.
This episode was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Stress” – beautiful inside, where all the food factory magic happens and filled with dangerous pitfalls and peril.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
Get ready for the introduction of more MasterChef surprises with the show that will have to start introducing Mystery Boxes and Speed Tests and other curveballs sooner or later.