Cape Town - Hundreds of hopeful amateur chefs turned up at the Cape Town leg of auditions for season three of Masterchef South Africa on Saturday, suitably armed with the ingredients to prove their culinary expertise.
Queuing from 6am at the Cullinan Hotel, the wannabes were rewarded with auditions starting almost two hours earlier than planned for fear of wilted or melted dishes.
Anyone could arrive throughout the day, provided they came armed with a cold dish in a cooler box.
Contestants entered the first room five at a time, with no idea what to expect, and had 10 minutes to plate up before carefully carrying them upstairs to be tasted by a chef from the South African Chefs Association. From there they were either sent home or on to the interview stage. By today, they should know if they’re through to the next stage.
On Monday, they will produce a hot dish in just 45 minutes.
With their tarts, terrines, cold soups and salads, the Cape Town contestants were very impressive. The vast majority got through stage one, but the organisers weren’t particularly surprised, since Cape Town is a “foodie city”, boasting many of the country’s top 10 restaurants.
Ruth Edwards-Shirley, from Noordhoek, plated up a flourless dark chocolate cake which had to be rushed upstairs for fear of her Margarita ice cream melting. She got through the first stage, impressing the chefs.
Also through stage one was Colin du Plessis, who travelled from McGregor at 5am to make sure he could serve his walnut and biltong salad, made from ingredients grown on his farm.
“(The chef) said he could see that (my dish) wasn’t just a salad. He could see I made a lot of effort,” Du Plessis said.
Nina Schroeder, from Noordhoek, prepared a chocolate almond cake with chocolate ganache and Cape Velvet cream, then topped it off with a sugared Masterchef “M”. She called it “sex on a spoon” and the chefs put her through to the interview stage.
“It’s been such a freaky experience today. My nerves are finished,” she said.
“It’s a crazy, crazy thing that they put us through. But I’m super chuffed.”
Nazia Harnekar has just finished studying and decided to display the kitchen skills her grandmother taught her. She served the chefs a frozen cheesecake with a trio of homemade chocolate truffles.
“My grandpa always tells me I should open my own restaurant. I want to see if I can actually do it,” she said.
Cape Town bar manager Mark Rivera learnt a lot about cooking while working on cruise ships in Japan. He’s returned with his Japanese fiancée and the pair will settle in Cape Town, but right now he wants to be South Africa’s next master chef.
And he felt confident after impressing the chefs with his dish made of motchi (Japanese rice paper) covering, vanilla ice cream, lemon curd, and a mandarin and thyme pu rée.
For Bonnie Beelders, from Goodwood, the news wasn’t good, and her lemon drizzle cake with honey cream didn’t get her through to tomorrow.
Domestic worker Siphokazi Mdlankomo, from Newlands, says she decided to audition to prove that domestic workers are professionals who mustn’t be taken for granted. She cooks for the family she lives with and sometimes shares the kitchen with her boss.
“We are a great team in the kitchen. They love my cooking – they can’t live without it,” she joked.
She thinks they’ll survive without her for a while if she gets into Masterchef though. Mdlankomo served a trio of chilled soups and said that the chefs couldn’t believe how clear and delicious her tomato consommé was.
* Season three of Masterchef South Africa will air on M-Net in August.