Durban - MasterChef winner Kamini Pather says she learnt to cook in her grandmother’s kitchen in Mobeni Heights in Durban, where the family used to meet for Sunday lunch.
Durban-born Pather spoke after the winner of the first televised cooking contest, Durbanite Deena Naidoo, jumped on to the stage in Johannesburg to congratulate her after a nail-biting final.
He said Pather was immediately set apart, having come with vast experience. It was great for the East Coast that, once again, there was a KwaZulu-Natal connection.
Pather told the Daily News:
“My gran taught me to cook potato curry when I was very young, and although I’ve always loved eating, I only started cooking again when I was about 18 or 19 years old.”
Unsure of what to do after matriculating, the former Durban Girls’ College pupil went on to study a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, something she said she would never regret because of the knowledge gained about the business world.
But she always felt something was missing.
“In my first year I started messing around with eggs and I would Google recipes trying to make more complex dishes.
“I think food is about creativity and that was missing in my life.”
In 2006 Pather moved to Cape Town where she studied copywriting, all the while experimenting with different dishes, until two years ago she put her photographic, writing and cooking skills to use by starting her own food blog.
She took every opportunity to visit food tastings, building her name as a food blogger, but eventually Pather decided it was time to prove her cooking skills to the world.
“I was going to enter the first season of MasterChef but I was in Joburg with my family and decided I didn’t want to queue for hours outside Coca Cola Dome, I’d rather be with my family.”
For the second MasterChef auditions, Pather was with family again but decided this was the year she would give it a shot.
“I didn’t want to stand in a line so we went to the market and I got to the auditions in the afternoon. It went very well.”
Dealing with the pressure in the kitchen, Pather said she remained focused and centred.
“My lowest point (on the show) was the China Town experience but I think none of us did well because we were all tired from travelling to Ethiopia.”
She rates the Ethiopian visit as her favourite, cooking for Haile Gebrselassie, who couldn’t get enough of her trio of vegetarian curries with home-made chapatti.
Pather said the reality of winning had yet to sink in and she was still dealing with the sudden fame.
“My mom and I went to the Good Food and Wine Show in Durban and my poor mom, who can barely use her phone, suddenly had to take pictures of people with me!”
Future plans include working on getting South Africans to eat local, seasonal food; a potential TV show as well as a mystery product for the digital execution of recipes which is still to come.
Pather will be visiting her folks fairly soon in Glenwood, where she’s sure to dine at one of her favourite Durban restaurants: Corner Café, Freedom Café or Earth Mother.
Her advice to budding chefs: “A grapefruit was a lemon that saw a chance and took it. Be daring and take a chance.”
Pather’s grand prize included R400 000 in cash, a VW Golf 7, a five-night holiday at Maia Luxury Resort & Spa in the Seychelles, a year’s free shopping at Woolworths valued at R100 000, and a year’s supply of wine and a sommelier course from Nederburg.
Naidoo said Pather’s win was a momentous achievement, having beaten thousands of entrants: “... being away from home and cooking every day from 6am to 9pm or 10pm. It takes a lot of energy being a contestant and being at your best at all times.” - Daily News