Come Dine With Me star's new TV gig
One of the most colourful contestants in BBC Entertainment’s first season of Come Dine With Me SA, Aubrey Ngcungama will never be able to live down his reputation for knocking back those glasses of wine. And in the same way that he appreciates vino, his well-trained palate for fine cuisine has contributed to him landing a spot on the judging panel of SABC2’s Dinner Divas. Debashine Thangevelo found out what’s brewing on the TV side now that the reality bug has clearly bitten…
‘GOSH, it’s 11am and you sound sober,” I joke, when I get a hold of Aubrey Ngcungama. Being the good sport that he always is, he laughs, “Oh, I don’t know… I might get into trouble if I wasn’t this early in the morning.”
Blessed with impeccable manners that have been instilled by his adoptive British parents, Ngcungama grew on viewers when he entered BBC Entertainment’s pioneering season of Come Dine With Me SA last year.
Let’s just say, the delightfully funny personality that surfaced during his inebriated state throughout the dinner parties, bowled viewers over and, in so doing, made him a household face.
Although he comes from a hotelier family, he “doesn’t get involved in that” side of things.
So what does he do?
“I am doing as little of the conventional work as possible,” he shares, with a chuckle.
“I just enjoy doing my own thing, which involves cooking, entertaining and, most importantly, eating. I am also working on launching my cooking career on TV.”
The other judges on the Dinner Divas panel include: Caro de Waal, Editor of FOOD24; Andrew Lieber, founder and editor Gourmet Guys; Fernando Roman, the executive chef of a five star hotel group; and, Leila Padayachi, an up-and-coming Cordon Bleu pastry chef.
On being asked to join them, Ngcungama says, “Initially, they hoped I would become a contestant. We eventually settled for second best – being a judge (laughs).
“But it was through Andrew, who I met in Joburg after Come Dine With Me, that I was approached. He suggested (to the powers that be) that I become a contestant.
“I then got an e-mail from Anne Myers (executive producer/director). I remember saying to her that it was a great idea ‘but I don’t think I could be a contestant’. And judging was the next best option.”
The series features 12 food bloggers vying for the title of Ultimate Dinner Diva 2012. The winner walks away with R50 000, a cook book deal, R25 000 worth of kitchen appliances, shopping vouchers and food hampers, courtesy of Mr Price Home and Rhodes Food, respectively.
Giving his take on the unusual format, Ngcungama says, “It is a great idea because there is nothing really out there for food bloggers… except maybe one day getting a book published.
“In the show, they are asked to try out the most basic of things, such as cooking certain sauces. Some were totally disastrous. But I will say there is lots of drama, tears… and there will be blood.”
On his fellow judges, he says, “I expected Fernando to be critical. But he let them get away with murder.
“Leila was more concerned with healthy food. Andrew was always philosophical and concerned with the blogging side of things. Blogging isn’t my forté so I focused on the food. I looked for taste and innovation.”
A self-confessed foodie, Ngcungama is working on bagging sponsorships for his own show.
He admits, “I had a meeting with possible sponsors last week. They were keen to be involved in something next year. It will be with a major channel. And there is a local channel who has a concept for something. Who knows?”
Ngcungama, talking food and cooking, says he is big on seafood.
“I don’t think I have ever ordered a steak in a restaurant. I find all that meat too much.
“But I do make a divine seafood paella – and it has become a regular dish at special occasions with my friends. Personally, I believe recipes should be used as inspiration.
“I prefer to follow my palate and throw things together,” Ngcungama adds.
As far as his TV career is concerned, it looks like Ngcungama has lots cooking (in and out of the kitchen). Cheers to that!
• Dinner Divas airs on SABC2 at 8.30am on Saturdays.
* Update 15 October 2012:
We have updated this article to add the correct descriptions for Andrew Lieber, Fernando Roman and Leila Padayachi.