Described as cool and aloof by viewers, Kamini Pather showed some emotion and her first tears in the 25th episode of MasterChef SA last night, frustrated in her efforts to bake a Lemon Meringue Gâteau, the focus of much of the episode. Being the darling of viewers and tipped to win Season 2 of MasterChef SA, it was a surprise that viewers reacted with such vitriol against her performance at the end of the episode last night.
While Ozzy Osman was on his way to Gansbaai as a guest of Dyer Island Conservation Trust for having created the best month-end dish, the three Finalists who had to go into the Pressure Test as a result of their poor month-end ‘cuisine’ in episode 24 were only supported by Leandri van der Wat, watching her sister Seline, Kamini, and Jason Steel bake up a sweat in what was billed as the ‘most daunting Pressure Test‘ in the series. Chef Benny Masekwameng warned. It would test their limits, in replicating the ‘work of art and masterpiece‘ of invited guest Chef Kelvin Joel, who has worked in top 5 star hotels, he added. Chef Kelvin has recently opened the Johannesburg Culinary and Pastry School, having had a rough childhood, according to a Google search. He dropped out of school at 12, and got over his past by studying hospitality management. He did an internship with Chef Rudi Liebenberg, then at the Parktonian and now at The Mount Nelson. Chef Kelvin has also worked at the Sandton Sun, The Michelangelo, and The Hyatt. Chef Kelvin introduced his recently opened school as doing short courses in cupcake and pastry making.
The Pressure Test challenge was to bake a Lemon Meringue Gâteau, replicating the beautiful one made by Chef Kelvin, consisting of a chocolate chip base, lemon curd, dacquoise sponge, mousse, and meringue shards. The Finalists were given 2½ hours to complete the task of making the soft, fluffy, delicate biscuit based cake, which was beautifully layered, the judges said. Chef Kelvin said that a number of elements could go wrong in baking the cake. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that this was ‘pastry at the highest level’! The exact steps had to be followed in the recipe, to guarantee success, the Italian meringue had to be baked at 118°C, and ‘timing is everything‘, Chef Pete said.
Seline impressed from the word go, saying that she would use the discipline of her degree in industrial engineering to approach and plan her cake. She made the dacquoise first, to cool it down. The lemon curd followed. She even made a second biscuit base, having enough time, in case the first one did not work out, and did not waver at any step, telling the judges that she was having fun, and that everything was under control. She is an experienced baker, and Chefs Kevin and Andrew Atkinson commented that she looked very confident. She never needed the second base, every element working out perfectly. She even had enough time to philosophise about MasterChef SA, and winning it, saying that one needs fighting spirit, and that ‘one should not let anything get you down‘! Feedback from the judges was short and sweet, and very sweet, Chef Kelvin saying that it was a ‘pretty good attempt’, and ‘not bad‘, the lemon curd being too strong. Chef Benny said the layers of the gâteau were the same as those of Chef Kelvin, her base was crispy, and it showed that baking is her strength in the kitchen. Chef Andrew also praised the layers, her dacquoise having the correct quantity of nuts, but that the lemon curd was too strong, which Chef Pete disagreed with, saying he liked its freshness, and that she had made a magnificent gâteau, liking its fluffy and light mousse.
Jason made some mistakes along the way, his ‘eggs scrambling’ at the lemon curd stage, so he had to make it again. He decided to take things step by step, and to not make any further mistakes by multitasking. He did not put his base into the blast chiller, hand beat his meringue instead of using the fancy Kenwood Chef on his work station. He struggled in getting the gâteau out of the mould, but made a plan with boiling water to loosen it from the bottom. Chef Kelvin asked him if he had enough volume of mousse to cover the cake. Chef Pete had observed that Jason had poured sugar straight into the egg white. Chef Andrew said that the biscuit base was too thick. Chef Kevin added that there was too much meringue, and that the shards were not the same size as his, Jason’s being bigger. The mousse was too concentrated, and the base was too thick, yet it was ‘not bad’. Chef Benny had observed that Jason’s folding action had let him down, making the mousse heavy, and had caused the dacquoise to shrink, making it thin and chewy. Chef Pete also criticised the gâteau, saying that the mousse was dense and solidified, having the consistency of ‘instant pudding’.
Kamini said that she had made individual elements such as lemon curd, dacquoise sponge, and meringue before, but she had never made a lemon meringue gâteau. She appeared confident initially, but became increasingly nervous when her lemon curd split. She spoke to herself, saying that she ‘must think like a real person, not as a tree squirrel person’, the exact meaning not being understood! Her choc chip base was very crumbly, even though she had used the correct ingredients and had put it in the blast chiller. Her base was still crumbly when she took it out of the chiller. Her mould was too full, so she had to scoop out some of lemon curd, realising that it was too thick. Her base was still crumbly, so she put it back into the blast chiller. The top of her mousse had not frozen. She described the piping of the ‘rosette things‘ on the cake as ‘messy‘, being super nervous by now. When she was done, she started crying, saying that it ‘feels like I am going home today‘! She said that it was not her best plate of food as she brought her gâteau to the judges to taste, and that the pressure of being Top 5 was getting to her. She was asked what she wanted to do in the future (the other two Finalists were not asked this question), a question she has been asked by the judges in the past, and she reiterated that she wants to ‘bring food media alive’. Chef Kelvin said her gâteau had a good taste, but that the lemon curd was thick, the meringue was not shiny enough, saying it was not ‘bad‘! Chef Benny said that the lemon curd was too thick, that the lemon mousse had ‘got trapped’, but praised her for persevering in completing the challenge. Chef Andrew said her lemon curd was gooey. Chef Pete sent mixed signals, saying it ‘tastes as it should‘, yet it ‘was out of balance‘.
Ozzy was driven in a VW to Gansbaai, where Dyer Island Conservation Trust is based, with blatant VW branding on arrival. Their name was not mentioned at all, although one saw the name on their flags. Ozzy lived his dream in being on a boat from which Great White sharks were chummed, but he did not go into a cage to meet them face to face! Ozzy showed his ignorance of the WWF Southern African Seafood Sustainability Initiative SASSI sustainability classification of fish, and very little time was spent on this, compared to Season 1. The lady on the boat mentioned Red Roman being caught by the fishermen, but that it was on the Red List, and therefore not to be eaten by consumers. He was told that were it not for the sharks, the ‘whole eco system would crash‘! When Ozzy came back on land, Chef Karnan Munsamy of SeaFood at The Marine prepared a seafood salad for him, with grilled pilchards, a fresh salad of butternut, spinach, and tomatoes, topped with pine nuts and deep fried kelp, creating a dish with colour and texture, each ingredient ‘speaking for itself‘. I called The Marine, and after having been told by the switchboard that there is no chef by that name, I did manage to speak to Chef Karnan, who explained that he now works at Pavilion at The Marine, and that Wesley Abrahams has taken over his job at SeaFood at The Marine, a restaurant at which we had a very poor experience a month ago. Chef Karnan was helpful in assisting with information about the ingredients he used to make his seafood salad for Ozzy.
Chef Kelvin critiqued each Finalist for errors made, but then said that each Finalist had not been ‘too bad‘ in what they had prepared, not particularly helpful feedback. It was a close call as to who was to be eliminated, and more and more Tweets were indicating that Kamini should be eliminated, one Tweeter even writing that if she was not sent home, the programme was rigged. The elimination of Jason caused a massive uproar on Facebook, and comments included accusations of racism by the judges in keeping Kamini, when her gâteau was ‘substandard‘ and she was ‘out of her depth‘ in its preparation. Many said they no longer wished to watch repeats or the last three episodes, as they felt it was ‘rigged‘, and a ‘circus‘ – ‘to see the unfairness again, no thanks’! On Twitter criticism was less harsh than on Facebook, but it was felt that Jason had been ‘blatantly cheated’ by the elimination, and that the result was ‘rigged‘ last night.
Jason said that he has new energy now, and that he wants to live the new outlook on his life. Chef Pete shared that he had a dream, in which Tiron Eloff and Jason would be driving through the countryside in a Food Truck! Exciting is that Chef Richard Carstens of Tokara will be setting a challenge consisting of eleven elements for the Final Four in episode 26 tonight, an extremely talented and highly regarded chef (fascinated by Molecular Gastronomy) by all except Eat Out, who announce the Top 10 Restaurants annually! Chef Pete described him as ‘science meets food‘! How Finalist Neil Lowe would have loved this challenge!
For an overview of what is lying ahead for the rest of Season 2 read here. For behind the scenes information on the filming of Season 2 in January read here. For an overview of episode 1 of Season 2 read here. For an overview of episode 2 of Season 2 read here, for episode 3 read here, for episode 4 here, episode 5 here, episode 6 here, episode 7, episode 8, episode 9, and episode 10, episode 11, episode 12, episode 13, episode 14, episode 15, episode 16, episode 17, episode 18, episode 19, episode 20,episode 21, episode 22, episode 23, and episode 24 read here. Enter our competition to predict which Finalist will win MasterChef SA Season 2.
MasterChef SA, Season 2. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 19h30 – 20h30. www.masterchefsa.dstv.co Twitter: @MasterChef_SA.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage