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It isn’t often siblings enter a reality show and make it through together. But the cooking skills of a young Leandri and Seline Van der Wat were enough to impress the MasterChef South Africa judges and see them make it through to the Top 6. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with the pair to find out more about their journey to date and how the Chinatown challenge saw them hit an all-time low…
THE COFFEE ADDICT
WHEN I made contact with Leandri, she was on her second cup of java. As was witnessed during her and her sister’s sensory-overloaded trip to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the 23-year-old Masters (in chemistry) student was in coffee utopia. Even being in the pressure test with Amanda did little to dampen her spirits.
Back to Thursday night’s episode of MasterChef SA, where the remaining six contestants were split into two teams and had to create Asian-inspired dishes in Cyrildene – the heart of Joburg’s famous Chinatown.
She says: “I wasn’t feeling it. We has just returned from Ethiopia. We were really tired. Two people had gone home. It was bad. We were hoping to go to a professional kitchen. I think they were expecting a lot from us. We were tested in terms of the language barrier – everything was in Chinese in the supermarket, the cooking utensils and the gas burner. We only had two minutes to plan and 10 minutes to shop.”
All these factors contributed to the disastrous dishes that were served by everyone – despite the red team (which her sister Seline was part of) winning.
“It was definitely my worse MasterChef moment. It was not nice to have that aired on TV. It was just a bad day.”
Although she is the younger of the two sisters, Leandri’s calmness has become her sister’s crutch, so to speak.
She explains: “I can calm her down if she gets upset and if her focus shifts – the judges can sometimes unsettle you. It feels nice to have her in the show with me – you know there is someone who always has your back.”
Of course, it does become a disadvantage when they are vying for the same title.
Revisiting memories of Ethiopia, she shares: “I loved Ethiopia. I wanted to go there as a volunteer for some time and it just didn’t happen. When we were told we were going, I was super excited – that was a sort of bucket list moment for me. All my coffee friends were jealous.”
Leandri picks up: “One of the highlights was cooking at Castelli’s. It is something I will never forget. Normally three people go into the pressure test. When I had to cook against Amanda, who was also my roommate there, it was kind of awkward. But we ended up having such an amazing day that neither of us would have minded going home after that – she would say that, too.”
To date, her best dish on the show is a coconut tart she made, which was inspired by her time at a boy’s shelter in Mozambique.
While she still can’t believe she made it this far, Leandri says she is “going for broke”.
WATCHING the interaction between Ozzy and her in the Chinatown episode left Seline feeling rather downhearted. More so, because they are such good friends – and they came across as anything but.
The 25-year-old renewable energy plant developer was still beating up herself about it when we chatted.
She says: “I have never seen myself on camera. So last night (Wednesday) was particularly difficult. Ozzy and me are good friends. I absolutely adore him and I’m the most disappointed in myself.”
Although, something good did come out of it – Seline has realised she needs to understand how to handle stressful situations better.
“I’m not rude like that,” she maintains. “I just have to learn to take myself a little less seriously and to calm down. I was really, really shocked the way it came across.”
On both the blue and red teams getting serious flak from judge Pete Goffe-Wood, Seline reveals: “You saw the PG-friendly version of that. Pete went on for about 20 minutes. I think with the travelling to Ethiopia, we all snapped. We were tired and frustrated. We were all low on our game. Thankfully, our team (Ozzy, Kamini and her) have broken the red apron curse.”
As for getting to share this milestone with Leandri, she admits: “I absolutely love it. She knows me really well. I learn a lot from her even though I’m older. I’m more the protector and fixer.”
Of the episodes to date, she reveals that the dairy challenge was her best.
“For the first time I found a balance between making what I wanted and trying to please the judges. So I resigned myself to making a dish I was proud of,” she shares.
Along the way, she also picked up a few tips.
“I used to keep telling myself that this (the food) wasn’t enough. So I would end up putting too much on the plate,” she laughs.
What has been truly remarkable though, for a cooking buff like her, was being thrust in a creative environment, where she was inspired all the time.
Still reeling from them being k**ked out on national TV, which she describes as “the most humiliating thing”, Seline reckons Kamini is her biggest rival: “Kamini and I know each other really well. I know how badly she wants this. Everyone is calling her the favourite and she is the biggest competition at the moment.”
MasterChef SA airs on M-Net on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7.30pm.