Episode 6 promised to be a spicy and heated one, the promotional video ahead of the program giving MasterChef South Africa fans a taste of Judge Pete Goffe-Wood’s dissatisfaction with the preparation of his favourite food, being curry. The filming was very colourful, with beautiful multi-coloured seafood curry dishes, followed by the rich orange of the salmon preparation. Finalist Lwazi Mngoma had to leave MasterChef SA last night.

To introduce the curry theme, Le Quartier Français Chef Vanie Padayachee from Franschhoek prepared her favourite Rendang curry, which the Finalists had to taste, and then were put to the test as to the spices which Chef Vanie had used, including Star Anise, peanut oil, and garlic.  Finalist Samantha Nolan showed her cuisine strength, by correctly identifying the three ingredients, and was therefore allowed to choose the main ingredient of the curry dish to be prepared by all the Finalists, from a selection of duck, chick pea, tofu, lentils, or seafood, the latter being her choice. The three chef judges emphasised that the art of good curry-making lies in the ‘balance of flavours’, ‘in the flavour combinations’, and they said that it is ‘the mark of a great chef’.  The outcome of the curry dish, to be prepared within 75 minutes, was made clear – the creators of the two best dishes would become the team leaders in episode 7, while those of the three worst dishes would go into the dreaded ‘Pressure Test’.

Most of the Finalists chose to make a prawn curry. Thys Hattingh had only cooked curry two or three times, being a dessert man, and was seen to add almost every spice possible. While Judge Benny Masekwameng felt that his Thai green prawn curry was ‘too busy’, Judge Andrew Atkinson said that it was ‘a gem, a treasure’. It was voted as the second best curry dish, ‘with exotic flavours, refreshing, and perfectly executed’.  Ilse Nel was praised for her meal presentation (left), and Judge Andrew’s succint evaluation was ‘simply wow’.  Samantha prepared a Madagascar prawn curry with star anise, while Sue-Anne Allen chose to make a yellowtail curry. Judge Andrew complimented her plating, but felt that she had not made the dish in line with the brief, only having a curry sauce on the side.  ’This is going to be a good one’, she had said prior to the judging. Sarel Loots had also rarely prepared prawn curry, but was up to the challenge, saying ‘let’s have fun, let’s do something crazy’. Judge Pete observed Sarel, and felt that he was throwing in too many spices. Sarel admitted to oversalting his prawns, and tried to balance this error with lemon juice and yoghurt.  He said that the curry dish would ‘Titanic me’! His dish was judged to have‘too many things, all fighting for a place in the bowl, being impossible to eat’, and it would have been sent back in a restaurant. Lwazi Mngoma admitted to having a head cold, not being able to taste nor smell his dishes, adding atchar and parsley to his curry.  Judge Pete asked him if he had tasted his dish, and he admitted to not having done so. Chef Pete told him to taste it again, and he admitted to a ‘taste of bitterness’. Chef Pete slated the dish, saying that it was ‘inedible’, and the prawns had not been cleaned nor cooked properly. He was sent to the ‘Pressure Test’ with harsh words from Chef Pete: ‘dude, this dish is disgusting’.  Lungile Nhlanhla was very unsure of herself, saying that it was not her best attempt, that she should have had more sauce and sambals, and that she ‘could have done better‘. The judges said that she had done just fine. Deena Naidoo was judged to be the star curry master of all finalists, Judge Benny saying that he was taken back to his days in Durban, and that his curry dish demonstrated that ‘less is more’.

Chef Pete lost his cool, saying that he had looked forward so much to his favourite dish being prepared, and had never been so disappointed, that he ‘went to hell in a handbasket’, that he had seen better from Grade 10 cooks ‘than the garbage served today‘. He added that Judges Andrew and Benny had tempered his reaction, as he would have sent eight Finalists to the ‘Pressure Test’, had it depended on him! In the end it was Lwazi, Sue-Ann, and Sarel that went to the ‘Pressure Test’. The three finalists were put to the ‘hardest test, stretching them to their ultimate limits’, being the preparation of ‘Salmon Three Ways’, a dish which had won Judge Andrew a gold medal in an international competition. It consisted of delicate salmon poached in miso infused olive oil; salmon tartare with a poached quail egg; and a teriyaki seared salmon.  The three finalists were given 90 minutes to recreate the dish.  Chef Pete got into his chef’s outfit for the first time in the show, and taught them how to fillet the beautiful salmon, to remove the pin bones with a pair of tweezers, and to remove the skin.  They were told that the filleting is important, to achieve equal portions. Sarel sailed through the salmon test (below left), his dish being almost perfect: ‘superbly executed’ with his poaching and searing having been done to perfection. Sue-Ann looked fearful and was close to tears, saying her ‘life was hanging in the balance’, given that she had given up so much to get to where she wanted to be at MasterChef SA, having given up her job and selling her car. Her presentation was judged to be neat and symmetrical, her quail egg was perfectly poached, but her tartare lacked seasoning and had no lemon juice.  One felt sorry for Lwazi when he said that his hands were not delicate enough relative to the quail egg.  He admitted that this challenge had been ‘too far beyond his experience’, the oil was too hot, Chef Andrew said, the teriyaki salmon was on the ‘raw side‘, and it did not ‘melt on the tongue’. Given that Lwazi was in the koeksister ‘Pressure Test’ too, he was dismissed from MasterChef SA, ‘having used up all his lives’.

One should question the focus on salmon, especially with Chef Pete in the program.  He has been a strong advocate of the SASSI fish list, and does not advocate the usage of non-green rated fish varieties.  SASSI only lists Alaskan salmon as green, Cape salmon (‘geelbek’) being on the orange and red lists, kob appearing on all three lists, and Norwegian salmon is on the orange list!  The judges did not use the opportunity to educate the audience about SASSI and responsible sustainable fish eating.  For the first time the judges gave more specific feedback, of benefit not only to the finalists, but also to TV viewers lapping up every cuisine detail.

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