Is it me or was November a really long month? It felt like it was longer than January and July combined! Maybe it’s because everyone is desperate for the holidays to come around because everyone is exhausted.
And yet I didn’t get that vibe at the finale of Gateway’s Celeb Chef Showdown on Wednesday. People came out in droves and were excited to see the final showdown happen between the chosen celebrities, who had to play chefs for charity, at Beluga restaurant. There was hardly any vacant table and when I arrived, the hostesses were stressed about where to seat patrons.
Thank goodness for the media table, or else I would have probably been turned back. There was one old lady who just wanted to see her granddaughter's crush, musician Kyle Deutsch, in person, have the starter and then leave. She stayed the whole evening and I don’t know if she met him. It would have been cute.
I decided I was going to pick a menu by checking who had the best dessert. I chose Kyle’s menu because the home-made lemon tart sounded like something I really would enjoy (which I did). The ECR Breakfast Team had malva pudding (snore), Dawn Thandeka King had chocolate brownies, Ben Vos had chocolate mousse and Krijay Govender had crème brulee.
Beluga is known for their sushi and Kyle was clever by having their tuna crunch sushi as his starter. It was better than the mains (lemon butter cobbler on pomme puree and roasted vegetables) and the portion was so big, I was forced to leave some space for mains and dessert. The only other starter that could compare was Dawn’s panko crusted camembert, with beetroot, walnut puree and blueberry compote.
The mains were really a let-down. While the fish was cooked well, the potatoes were mushy and the vegetables weren't even seasoned properly. It was so bland, I was forced to crack some salt and pepper to make it flavourful. Pomme puree is basically a fancy word for mashed potatoes and mash always has to be light, fluffy and well-seasoned. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t enjoy the mains, with a number of my table mates wishing there was some hot sauce on the table to give their food a kick. Disappointing.
But the dessert was everything I needed it to be. The lemon tart was really great. It wasn’t rich and the crust was almost melt-in-your-mouth delicious. That got the highest score from me.
Anyway, Darren Maule and his ECR Breakfast co-hosts, Keri Miller and Sky Tshabalala, won the showdown, with R25 000 of the proceeds all going to their chosen charity, the East Coast Radio Toy Story campaign. It was pretty obvious that they would win- it was an ECR listener/ fan club hub and naturally more people would have picked their menu. Their only competition would have been MasterChef judge, Pete Goffe-Wood, but he couldn’t come to the finale. If he was there, I doubt they would have won. No shade.
I do have to give props to them though. They interacted with the patrons even before the competition started and their menu was very simple and sometimes with food, simple is the bets way to go. There’s little chance for error and since it worked from them at Hussar Grill, it once again worked for them at Beluga.
Beluga was the perfect venue, as one of the biggest restaurants in Gateway. With it packed to the rafters, I felt so sorry for the waiters because they had to run around like headless chickens, making sure that everyone had their food and drinks. One waitress bolted out the kitchen with two plates, and nearly burned her hands because she forgot to use a cloth to hold the plate. That’s just how hectic the evening was for them.
I really enjoyed this year’s edition of the Celeb Chef Showdown and while I wished that we could order our meals from the various menus instead of just one, I understand that it was to make the lives of the waiters as easy as possible. If they do decide to bring it back next year, maybe they need to think about going back to the old version.