MasterChef SA episode 12: Chef Reuben Riffel ‘underpins’ Khaya Silingile, Jade de Waal’s Gateau melts her out of reality show!

It seems that every second MasterChef SA episode is an exciting one, making the one hour reality TV show fly past, and keeping one on edge. Last night’s episode 12 was one of these, with Finalist Khaya Silingile cooking against Chef Reuben Riffel for an Immunity Pin, and the three Pressure Test Finalists Thys Hattingh, Deena Naidoo, and Jade de Waal being put to a three hour challenge to bake and make a Passion Hazelnut Gateau.

One knew from last week’s episode that Chef Reuben and Khaya would be facing a cooking duel, Khaya having won last week’s food and Nederburg wine pairing. The stakes were high for both parties – Chef Reuben’s reputation would be damaged if he lost against a MasterChef SA Finalist, whereas Khaya could win an Immunity Pin, which would offer her immunity against participation in future elimination challenges, bar the last two episodes. This was the first battle for the Immunity Pin in this series.  Chef Reuben brought along a beautiful looking Seafood fricassée with gnocchi and vegetables, a colourful dish with prawns, an unidentified fish, and the vegetables adding colour.  Given that it was Chef Reuben’s receipe, and had been prepared prior to the filming, so that Khaya could see and taste it, she was given a 15 minute headstart in the total of 80 minutes preparation time.  She was given the recipe for the dish, and Chef Reuben was very nice in checking how she was doing throughout the cooking process.  Khaya liked the look of the dish, saying that it has ‘very clean lines, a technical dish’, suiting her style, and admitted that she had never prepared gnocchi before, making her a ‘bit worried’ about it. Cheekily she asked Chef Reuben how she could beat him, and he said she should stick to the recipe! Chef Reuben said she was ‘doing very well’, when he was checking on her progress.  The judges also praised Khaya, talking amongst themselves, saying she is ‘giving him a run for his money’, having energy, and being dedicated. Khaya seemed relaxed, and was cheered on by and advised about ingredients from her fellow Finalists from the gallery above.  Talking out loud, Khaya told herself that she should ‘relax’ and ‘focus’. When done, she said that her dish did not taste like Chef Reuben’s.  As we have seen in precious episodes, she expressed her lack of self-confidence, saying that her fish had not cooked properly.

Chef Reuben hugged her when the judges provided their feedback, having evaluated the two dishes by tasting them ‘blind‘.  What turned out to be Khaya’s dish (number 1) was awarded 7/10 by Chef Andrew Atkinson, and was praised for its beautiful colours, for being very tasty, perfectly cooked fish, but that the sauce could have been seasoned more. Chef Benny Masekwameng gave her 8/10, liking the ‘lovely aromas‘, while Chef Pete Goffe-Wood gave her 7/10, saying that it was delicious. Chef Reuben’s dish (number 2) was awarded 8/10 by Chef Andrew, and was praised for its ‘lovely deep colour of the sauce’. Chef Pete awarded it 9/10, saying it was ‘beautifully crafted’, ‘superb’, the fish was perfectly cooked, and said that the sauce pulled the dish together. Chef Benny also rated it as 9/10, and said that the only problem with the dish was that there was not enough of it. The gnocchi of his dish was criticised, not being as good as Khaya’s, and let the dish down. Chef Reuben’s dish won with a 4-point margin, not surprising in that it was his dish made many times before, while Khaya made it for the first time, an unfair challenge. Realistically, MasterChef SA and its main sponsor Robertsons could not have allowed being embarrassed by Khaya beating their ‘seasoned’ spokesperson Chef Reuben!

Interesting is a new Robertsons’ commercial, which was flighted in this episode for the first time, in which Chef Reuben reflects what he likes to cook for friends at home, clearly aimed at addressing the criticism that he probably does not use Robertsons’ herbs and spices in his three Reuben’s restaurants. His three course meal of a butternut soup with cinnamon, a roast chicken main course, and chocolate mousse with a touch of chilli for home entertaining lacks credibility, given that he is a chef.

The Pressure Test was a three hour nightmare for all three the Finalists, in that they had to bake and make a Passion Hazelnut Gateau. Cape Grace hotel Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney had worked at the Prue Leith School of Cooking for eight years, Chef Pete said when he introduced her. The three finalists tasted her gateau, praising its texture. Jade was amazed that ‘one can see one’s reflection in the cake’. Chef Lorraine explained that the gateau had a pastry base, with layers of hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate mousse, cream, and passion fruit, covered with a chocolate glaze.  She told the finalists that a successful gateau lies in its timing, the accuracy in weighing the ingredients, and the technique in making the different elements.

Thys was over-confident initially, given that desserts have been his speciality and passion in the episodes up to now, and he repeatedly said that he ‘love(s) desserts so much’, ‘this is what I love doing’, ‘I am comfortable with sweet stuff, and am in my comfort zone’, and was so excited to prepare the gateau. The judges talked amongst themselves, saying that Thys had probably made all the individual elements in the past, but not put them together in a gateau before. Disaster struck when Thys’ mousse had not set, because he had whipped it, and the second lot he made had the same fate, remaining liquid. Finalist Sue-Ann Allen tried to encourage him from the gallery, and looked very worried for her fellow finalist. He served his gateau without the chocolate mousse, admitting ‘I messed up’.  The judges liked the taste of the crunchy biscuit base with a lovely texture, and well-balanced passion fruit of his ‘gateau’, Chef Andrew saying that it was ‘not far off‘, despite the lack of the chocolate mousse.  Thys said that he loves desserts so much, but now saw that it could have become his downfall.

Deena expressed his fear, being up against one of the best bakers in the competition, saying that he had ‘no experience with this type of cooking and baking‘. While he was working, he said that he is ‘struggling along’ and that he was in ‘foreign waters‘, when talking to Chef Pete. He started in the wrong sequence, which made him even more nervous. Talking about him, the judges said that he was ‘all over the place’, and ‘falling behind’.  He seemed to lose faith in himself, saying repeatedly ‘I can’t do this’, and that he was ‘giving up’. Saying that he was ‘battling to survive’, and ‘have to draw on inner strength‘, he shared how a ‘strength came over me‘, and ‘they guided me today’, looking upward.  Deena’s gateau had set perfectly, and so the Finalist that was most likely to not make it in terms of experience and confidence prepared the best gateau of the three contestants. Its form and presentation was praised, and so was Deena in having done a ‘good job‘. Chef Pete praised the ‘lovely glaze‘, and said that he didn’t think that he would see a cake of this calibre‘, to which Deena replied: that makes four of us‘! Holding Chef Andrew in awe as a pastry chef, Deena was delighted when he was praised by him. His cake was described as ‘absolutely superb‘, and with beautiful flavours and textures‘. Deena was delighted, saying the feedback hadrekindled his self-confidence’.

Jade saw the making of the gateau as an ‘adventure’, confidently saying ‘let’s do this’.  She said that ‘baking is all about perfection‘.  She received advice about her cream from Chef Pete.  Jade too had concerns with her mousse, ‘praying’ that her mousse had set. Her panna cotta had not set, and ‘melts into nothingness’, she said.  As she did her glaçage, which was too hot, the cake ‘starts running away’, she said, just as she wanted to refrigerate it, making her heart melt, and saying that her ‘cake is all over the place‘.  Jade said that she had not done her cake justice. Chef Pete said her biscuit base was too thick but was ‘beautiful and crisp’, and that her meringue was still raw in the middle. Chef Benny added that her glaze was too thick, saying that her gateau was ‘a mess on a plate’.  Chef Andrew praised her biscuit base, and ‘delicate and rich chocolate mousse’.  In eliminating Jade, she was praised for starting well, but then went ‘haywire’, and that the meringue was not properly baked.  Chef Pete sent her on her way, saying that she is a ‘crazy young woman‘, of whom he expects ‘huge things’ in future.

The remaining eight finalists were reminded that they should always expect the unexpected on MasterChef SA, and Thys was told that he should pack his bags… and so should the other seven finalists, as they were heading for the spice islands of Zanzibar!   This news was met with great excitement.

POSTSCRIPT 6/6: I popped in at the Cape Grace hotel this afternoon, to see their Afternoon Tea, and found two of Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney’s cakes – a delicious chocolate cake, and a gluten-free orange and lavender cake.  She was able to chat, and was generous with her time, and we were ‘entertained’ for a while by Andre Pentz, who happened to be in the hotel too.  On Saturday and Sunday the hotel is offering mini versions of Chef Lorraine’s MasterChef SA Passion Hazelnut Gateau from 12h00 – 18h00, at R50 each.  She shared that the leaf gelatine had been the biggest challenge in making the gateau in the episode last night. She remembered how hot it was in the MasterChef SA kitchen on the day that the Pressure Test took place, and that influenced the Gateau preparation.  She had brought her Gateau from Cape Town, and glazed it at Nederburg on arrival, ‘praying‘ that it would arrive in good condition. She said that the episode last night was a ‘triumph for Pastry Chefs’, to show ‘how technical pastry is’, that it is a ‘specialisation’, and not just something ‘just banged together‘.  Chef Lorraine uses Valrhona chocolate for her baking. She lectured at the Prue Leith School of Cooking in Pretoria, the finest in the country she said, spending eight years there and becoming its principle, before she left eighteen months ago to move to Cape Town and to join the Cape Grace.

POSTSCRIPT 10/6: Errieda du Toit, her husband Ian, MasterChef SA cookbook publisher Daleen van der Merwe, and I loved Cape Grace Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney’s mini Passion Hazelnut Chocolate Gateau, a special which was offered for afternoon tea this weekend. The special treat may be extended, Library Manager Roxy told us.

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

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