Masterchef SA cooking up a controversy already?

Instead of being delighted to have been selected as the judges for Masterchef SA in Johannesburg earlier this week, they looked utterly miserable in the photograph which M-Net posted on Facebook for the 18-programme series, which starts on M-Net on 20 March at 19h30, leading to immediate criticism.

Not only were the judges criticised for looking so glum, and for M-Net choosing such an inappropriate photograph, but the Facebook page also highlighted that all three judges are male, clearly not to their liking! I would like to add the criticism that only Chef Pete Goffe-Wood is from Cape Town, the gourmet centre of South Africa,  while Chefs Andrew Atkinson and Benny Masekwameng are from Johannesburg.  Good news is that Sam Linsell, a Cape Town (female) food stylist and blogger, has been appointed as food stylist for Masterchef SA, according to her Tweets, but her appointment has not been publicly announced by M-Net.

Masterchef is an international reality cooking competition for amateurs, and has been run in 33 countries. More than 10000 entries were received locally, and in December auditions were held in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, using judges from the SA Chefs’ Association.  Later this month a shortlist of amateur cooks will appear before the judges, and the finalists will be selected. Cape Town’s reputation as ‘foodie capital’ was evident in the very high quality of dishes which the contestants prepared and in their impressive knowledge about food. Durban contestants were said to have been the most creative.   The stakes are incredibly high, with prizes to the value of R8 million being the highest payout of any reality television program in this country.  Robertson’s is offering R250000 in cash; the winner will receive a Hyundai Elantra;  a 7-day culinary experience in Italy is sponsored by Woolworths; Nederburg will offer a food and wine pairing course, cellarmaster Razvan Macici will do a one-on-one master class with the winner, and the winner receives a year’s supply of Nederburg Winemasters Reserve wine; and the crowning chef’s hat will be the running of MondoVino restaurant for a year, taking over Chef Bennie’s job.

Chef Pete Goffe-Wood is a colourful outspoken character, who was an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge for a number of years, until the judging panel was thrown out by Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly last year.  He is a judge of the San Pellegrino World ‘s 50 Best Restaurants, still judges the Eat In Produce Awards, is the owner of the Kitchen Cowboys Cookery School for men, has owned Wildwoods restaurant in Hout Bay and the restaurant at Nitida, and has been a consultant chef to SALT restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel and to Blues. He has been a food editor of GQ.  Bennie Masekwameng is the Executive Chef of MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino, while Andrew Atkinson is the Chef at Piccolo Mondo, and is a Director of the South African Chefs’ Association. Andrew has owned a catering company, cooking for VIP’s, and presented a series of 32 cooking programs on SABC 2 during the World Cup last year.  The Facebook writer for Masterchef SA has written that the judges were concentrating on their briefing, to explain their stern look in the photograph!

The judges have said that they are looking for passion, planning, personality, and experimentation, in selecting South Africa’s top amateur Master Chef.  There is no doubt that Masterchef SA will become the most talked about TV programme on Social Media from March onwards, if the reaction last year to Masterchef Australia is anything to go by.  Masterchef USA starts airing on M-Net on 16 January at 6 pm, with judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and Graham Elliot.

POSTSCRIPT 8/1:  It would appear that top local chefs will be invited to judge individual sessions.  As soon as their names have been confirmed, we will add them to this blogpost.

POSTSCRIPT 8/1: Interestingly, the link to this blogpost, which we added to the Masterchef SA Facebook page this morning, has been removed.

POSTSCRIPT 30/1: The Cape Town leg of Masterchef South Africa commenced at Nederburg today.  The venue has not been officially announced by M-Net, but was mentioned by Nederburg Tasting Room staff a week ago. From Tweets this morning, judge Pete Goffe-Wood and stylist Sam Linsell will be spending the following six weeks at their Masterchef South Africa shoot location.

POSTSCRIPT 6/2:  An official media release received from Nederburg’s media agency today has confirmed that the Masterchefs SA series is being shot at the wine estate, being its wine sponsor too.  “This could well be the loveliest venue ever chosen for a MasterChef series anywhere in the world’, says Anne Davis, M-Net’s senior commissioning editor of the series.  “We wanted to shoot in the Winelands because Cape vineyards are immediately recognisable to local and international viewers as distinctly South African.  The Western Cape is also the culinary capital of South Africa and has great access to fresh produce”.  Nederburg revamped its 1000 square meter Johan Graue Auction Hall to become a 20-station MasterChef kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances and utensils, in which the 18-series programmes will be filmed.

POSTSCRIPT 7/2: Sam Linsell, stylist for MasterChef SA, although never formally announced as such by M-Net, parted ways after a week of shooting, announcing her departure as follows on Twitter on 5 February: “It was love at first sight, a whirlwind relationship but with little in common, Masterchef and I have parted ways. Disappointed & relieved”.

POSTSCRIPT 14/3: Chef Vannie Padayachee, now living in Franschhoek again, was involved with MasterChef SA for the past 5 weeks, testing the recipes of the participants, she told me today.  She has signed a confidentiality contract with M-Net, and will share her MasterChef SA experience with us once the programme series starts airing.

POSTSCRIPT 14/3: On Twitter today we saw that a new MasterChef SA recipe book will be published by Human & Rosseau in October.

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

2 replies on “Masterchef SA cooking up a controversy already?”

  1. France's Beasley says:

    It will be interesting to see how it is run and received in SA. I have been watching it for many years in Europe and Australia . In the UK versions they have amateur, professional and celebrity editions. It makes great TV for foodies and the key to the judging has definitely been the eclectic mix of the judges and the fact that Michel Roux junior is himself a two star Michelin chef. With the lack of Michelin star rating in some of the countries outside of the original Masterchef area or a judge who is a Michelin star chef this can doubtless have a difference.

    In the USA where as you have rightly pointed out Masterchef is also starting a series, they do not have Michelin star ratings but they have at least appointed Gordon Ramsay to be one of the judges who like him or not is a Michelin star chef himself.

    Given the choice of judges I think they have shown a balanced mix although perhaps someone like Billy Gallagher with his wealth of experience would have been a fantastic choice. Perhaps he was approached, I don’t know. In terms of a female judge, in the UK the three man judging team have been consistent over the years and it appears to have worked. The other consideration that of course presumably had to be taken into account was the amount of time away from the kitchen required in order to film the series. Not easy for many chefs to do this. SA female legendary chef Margot Janse is one such example. Highly respected world wide she is just one of several who may have found herself in this position if she had wished to be a judge.

    As a voyeur from overseas I will be interested to follow what little I can on the Internet. Regardless it should raise the profile of many who wish to succeed in the intensely tough and competitive food arena.

  2. Thank you for your detailed input Frances. I am a newbie at watching reality TV, so look forward to whetting my appetite, so to speak!

    I believe that there will be guest chef judges, and I know of one to date that has been approached. This may spice things up over the 18 weeks, although none that I know locally are as colourful as Ramsay could be!

    Chris

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