Ashley William van Heerden and Christin Daniels showcased their cooking skills in last week’s episode of My Kitchen Rules. Pictures: Supplied
Manenberg cousins Ashley William van Heerden and Christin Daniels showcased their cooking skills in last week’s episode of My Kitchen Rules, when they hosted 10 competitors and the judges at their instant restaurant.

The pair, known as Ash and Chris on the show, proudly welcomed their fellow contestants to Manenberg and showed them there is more to the area than reports of crime and gang violence.

In the episode, which is still available on-demand, Van Heerden, 25, a project manager at Iris House Children’s Hospice - a special needs facility - and single mother Daniels, 35, a risk manager at a financial institution, showcased their cooking skills through a fusion of flavours highlighting their local roots and travels. The pair, who have no previous cooking experience other than cooking with family and friends, hosted the dinner at the Beulah Centre in Manenberg.

The menu included tomato bredie potstickers in a green pepper broth for starters, three-way calamari with grilled peach and chipotle salsa for mains and a decadent white chocolate and litchi cheesecake with sake foam for dessert.

Daniels said their cooking style was diverse.

“Our culture is incredibly diverse, and so too is our food - a variety of foods inspired by the foods our mothers and grandmothers cooked, combined with an international flair, inspired by the foods we’ve tasted from across the globe.

“In short, our food is a unique blend of global and local cuisine,” she said.

The experience of hosting, said Daniels, was “intense and challenging”.

“The most nerve-wracking part was actually not the cooking, but rather hosting 10 guests in Manenberg, a community none of them had been to and is usually seen in a negative light.

“Our priority was to showcase the positive aspects of a community that has very limited resources, but has an abundance of potential.”

Van Heerden said that there were some who felt apprehensive about being in Manenberg because of all the negativity about the area. “We sought to change the narrative and we think we did that,” he said.

Response from the community had been “amazing”, he said. “One of the most precious moments we encountered was when a neighbour’s child proudly asked if he could share with his school that he knew us.

“This is exactly what we had hoped for, not to be famous, but to inspire a sense of pride in the community and give the community something they can gleefully boast about.

“Having an instant restaurant in Manenberg allowed us to showcase our community in the most positive light and spoke our truth in a way that resonated with many South Africans,” he said.

But, of course, they hoped to win the competition.

“Sure the other contestants are tough competition, and many of them intense foodies, but we hope our passion, heart and hard work will see us through to the end of the competition,” she said.

Daniels said being part of My Kitchen Rules had “amplified our passion for our community”.

“We will use food as a catalyst to connect, inspire and develop, by hosting regular community upliftment dinners.”

Van Heerden has started a sensory cooking project for children with special needs, and is busy with a sensory cookbook for children with autism. He said they both understood the “great respon- sibility we have as role models and ambassadors for our community”.

“We have both worked hard to inspire our own and the generations that come after us.

“This through succeeding even in the face of adversity.

“Now with the added attention the responsibility is greater, and we won’t relent in setting a good example and creating an environment in which young people in our community can aspire to achieve the things we have, and even greater things,” he said.

The pair will appear in the instant restaurants of other contestants.

Weekend Argus