Can Robertsons be any more dominant in MasterChef SA than in last night’s episode 8? We have renamed MasterChef SA MasterRobertsons, as the hard sell of the spice brand in this Season 3 is becoming laughable! One wonders how judges Benny Masekwameng and Pete Goffe-Wood (note his grumpy look in the M-Net publicity shot) must feel to have to push the brand, not an issue which Reuben Robertsons Riffel loses any sleep about, having cashed in on the spice brand for the past three years, thereby losing any credibility he may have previously had as a chef!
The episode started with the Blue Team, which lost the Team Challenge in episode 7. Filmed on an interesting looking bridge in Umhlanga, directly at the ocean, the five Finalists Penny Fitchet, Refilwe Tselanyane, Roxi Wardman, Francois Zietsman, and Sipho Mdlankomo watching as Chef Benny was wheeled onto the bridge in a rickshaw, clutching a cloche, which he ceremoniously opened to reveal a Bean Curry Bunny Chow. On the table surrounding the typical Durban dish was a collection of about 20 Robertsons spices and herbs, each covering a board with a black or a white sticker. The task of the five Finalists was to each identify one of 15 spices and herbs in the Bunny Chow, just from tasting it. The Finalists each drew a wooden cooking spoon with a number on it, to determine the order in which they had to identify the ingredients. The Robertsons collection stood on a table with the ultimate kitsch tablecloth, in a bright orange, looking like rosettes. Riffel clearly did not take History at school, confusing the role of Durban and Cape Town in linking our country to the East!
It was said by Riffel that the pressure would be on Roxi to identify the spices correctly, given that she comes from Durban, and should know her curries! Sipho correctly identified whole cloves, aniseed, and bay leaves. Francois correctly selected crushed garlic, nutmeg, and turmeric. Penny got cumin, chili, and paprika correct. Roxi was spot on with whole cinnamon, ginger, and sea salt, but her choice of whole pickling spice was incorrect. Refilwe chose coriander correctly, but her choice of origanum was incorrect. This took Roxi and Refilwe into the Pressure Test.
The Red Team was driven to Ixopo, to the Buddhist Retreat Centre run by Louis van Loon, originally from Holland. He is 80 years old now, and M-Net added sub-titles when he spoke. He had a lunch of vegetables from the garden served to the Team members, and told them that he has been a vegetarian for the past 60 years. He claims to be a pioneer in promoting vegetarian diets in our country, and the Retreat is known for its vegetarian cooking. He learnt to do without meat during the Second World War, when food was scarce. He invited the Red Team to taste the magic ‘by Mother Earth‘, balanced meals giving freshness and aliveness. He held a surprise Chinese tea ceremony for the Red Team members, and they each wore an orange cloak for it. The ceremony was slow, to offer peace of mind to the visitors. Mel Sutherland said that she felt at home at the Retreat, with its sounds of the bush and quietness. It has been recognised as a natural heritage site for its transformation of the environment. Van Loon has published two books: ‘Quiet Food’ and ‘The Cake the Budda Ate‘. Mel said that she had learnt that one should take more time to have serenity, breathing deeply and relaxing. Ian Young said the visit showed him to respect the source of food.
All the Finalists were taken to the Beverley Hills Hotel in Umhlanga, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The hotel is special to Chef Pete, as he cut his teeth at the hotel, his visit with MasterChef SA being a ‘homecoming’ to him! One of the signature dishes
of the hotel is its Prawn and chicken curry, served with rice, raiti, and walnut roti. The challenge to Roxi and Refilwe was to replicate Chef Pete’s preparation of it exactly, the least similar dish causing the elimination of that Finalist, they were told. They had to make their roti from scratch, and make the curry, which was described as ‘delicate‘. Refilwe said that she did not like seafood much, while Roxi said that she had never made prawns before, only having braaied langoustines before. Roxi and Refilwe received a list of ingredients, but were not given the methodology, as the recipe is a secret of the hotel. They were given 75 minutes to prepare the dish. The judges felt that Refilwe would have a headstart on Roxi in making the roti, due to her love of baking, while Roxi should be better in making a curry, being a Durbanite. Both the Finalists did not replicate the dish perfectly, Roxi getting her rice completely overcooked, and the colour of her dish did not look like Chef Pete’s, the judges said. She had lost a lot of her liquid, the sauce having reduced too much. Refilwe had not chopped her garlic or ginger in advance, and her fellow Finalists were worried on her behalf. Roxi repeatedly said that she was not yet ready to go home, and certainly not because of her failed rice! She added more and more sugar, feeling that her curry dish was not a sweet as Chef Pete’s.
Speaking amongst themselves, the judges said that Roxi’s curry dish did not resemble that of Chef Pete at all. After the judges had tasted the dishes, Chef Pete said that Roxi’s rice was overcooked, as were her prawns, but that the sauce contained a depth of flavour and was built on a solid foundation. Her sauce was thick, and her roti soft. Chef Benny added that the colour was correct, as was its texture, and that one could mop up the sauce with the roti. Refilwe was reminded about how far she had come, from cooking at a train station to cooking in the five-star Beverley Hills hotel. Her dough for the roti was too dense, her prawns had been cooked for too long, and her garlic tasted raw, the taste of the spices not having been released in the curry, making it taste more like a tomato stew, Chef Pete said.
One could not help think that we were seeing another Kamini Pather (Season 2 winner) moment, when the judges decided that Refilwe had to leave MasterChef SA. even though the judges amongst themselves had praised Refilwe’s dish more than Roxi’s! One sensed how they tried to put down Refilwe’s dish, and play up and minimise the errors of Roxi’s dish! Refilwe was told that she will be missed and that she had touched all her fellow Finalists. Roxi shed some tears, having been through a roller-coast ride of winning challenges, her trip to Ireland, and then experience her first Pressure Test.
It is ironic and weird timing that both ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa’ episode 13 on Monday and last night’s episode were set in Durban, and focused on making curry! Both programmes this week featured Bunny Chow! Surely Woolworths, the sponsor of both programmes, could have organised the scheduling of the episodes better! Last night’s MasterChef SA episode was the most blatant in advertising Robertsons, in flighting its TV commercials, and also in its blatant product placements. It is surprising that the MasterChef international rules allow such brand domination, never seen to such an excessive extent on MasterChef SA before! Can one can expect a consumer backlash against Robertsons? Viewers are not watching MasterChef SA to have to sit through Robertsons’ blatant advertorials!
For an overview of MasterChef Season 3 read here, and read here too. For a summary of episode 1 of Season 3 at Bootcamp 1 read here, and of episode 2 read here. The summary of episode 3 can be read here. Read about Roxi’s trip to Dublin and Thornton’s Restaurant, and the first Pressure Test in episode 4 here. Read about the Carrot Dessert Invention Test in episode 5 here. The Pressure Test with Swedish Chef Niklas Ekstedt, and visit to Syddah Essop in the Karoo in episode 6 is here. A summary of episode 7, a Team Challenge in Durban, click here.
For the Twitter handles of the Top 12 finalists, click here.
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards, usually posted on Fridays, will be posted on Saturdays until late December, to allow the write-ups of each of the 18 episodes of MasterChef SA Season 3 to be posted the day after the episode.
MasterChef SA Season 3, M-Net. www.masterchefsa.dstv.co.za Twitter: @MasterChef_SA Thursdays at 19h30.