My Kitchen Rules SA judges, chef J'Something and chef David Higgs. Picture: Supplied
My Kitchen Rules SA judges, chef J'Something and chef David Higgs. Picture: Supplied

There’s a certain taste to being a contestant on a cooking show

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published Aug 15, 2021

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So I pride myself when it comes to cooking. I think I'm above average. Most of my family and friends usually ask for seconds when they are done eating their first helping.

I have always thought about cooking competition TV shows and thinking that I can handle my business for a few episodes, before being tossed out with the aged herbs. Probably for not having enough salt in my food (blame it on having to cook without any salt for many years because of my grandmother’s hypertension) or for not plating like a pro.

I have since realised that I wouldn’t even last a day on one of those competitions. I recently took part in a cook-a-long with Chef David Higgs and Mi Casa member, J Something. They were launching the upcoming third season of My Kitchen Rules, which is currently shooting ahead of its premiere next month on M-Net.

The meal was simple – Vermicelli Ramen noodles with exotic mushrooms, crispy veg and toasted sesame seeds. The ingredients were sent to us, as well as the recipe. Easy, right? Wrong. So while I had studied the recipe and knew what I had to do and the variations I was going to make, I still wasn’t feeling confident.

This is because we had 10 minutes to make the meal and we all had our Zoom cameras on, which meant other food and TV writers could see me freaking over skipping a step and then realising my mistake and doing all I could to fix it and make sure the food was ready in the allocated time.

And it's during that cooking session that I admitted to myself that I could never cook under immense pressure and on a TV show. And I suddenly had even more respect for those who choose to go try their luck on these shows.

Cooking for friends and family is a love language. It's a literal expression of love and your loved ones do appreciate your efforts (well, hopefully they do). On a cooking competition show on TV, that’s not the case. No one is going to be eating that food with the aim of enjoying it. It’s all about checking if you have cooked the perfect meal possible, using the right ingredients and cooked under a certain amount of time. It’s no wonder that most of these cooks and chefs crack under pressure. I really don’t think you can cook something really great in 10 minutes with the knowledge that the world will be watching and critiquing your every culinary step?

But I do enjoy watching them sweat. I think that’s the reason why these shows are so popular. It’s the adrenaline that forces these cooks to actually do their best and actively try to create something so fantastic; they become almost impossible to forget about. After a year of more people cooking, I am excited at the talented cooks chosen for My Kitchen Rules S3. I’m awaiting a number of lockdown cooks featured on the show. I just wonder if they are ready to whip up a masterpiece in 10 minutes.

Oh and my ramen was delicious. While it was not perfectly plated, it was still a hearty dish that made me hanker for the real thing. I would have been marked down for plating, but I am certain I would have received a high score for the actual taste of the dish.

And this time, I even got the saltiness perfectly. It's clear that you can teach a dog new tricks. I certainly have learnt some.

This article was first published in Saturday Insider, August 14, 2021.

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