Q&A with MasterChef SA's Kamini Pather
Kamini Pather has been a food lover for years, but instead of being at her keyboard writing about food, she's now one of the top five on MasterChef South Africa, cooking for a career in food. Times LIVE's Nikita Ramkissoon caught up with her this week.
Q: So, you’ve been a food blogger for a while now. What made you want to go to the other side of food and enter MasterChef?
A: As a food wirer and photographer I think that my ability to actually cook was always questioned. Entering MasterChef was a very conscious way for me to prove that I could actually do it. I also got a taste of food TV on the Expresso Show last year.
The TV aspect of it all was widely exciting, even though I had to wake up at the crack of dawn to be on set. That experience showed me that I wanted to be involved in the on-screen element of food.
Q: What has the journey been like so far?
A: So far this journey has been more of a test of my strength of character than anything else. While it is a cooking competition it really is more about how to keep your wits about you when faced with whatever crazy challenges the judges have lined up. It's also about trusting oneself in those moments when all you can see, smell and taste is pandemonium.
Q: People have said you are the favourite to win. What do you say about that?
A: There is nothing certain in this kind of competition. You could be winning one day and on your way out the next. I got a taste of that [on Tuesday] with the Injera challenge in Ethiopia. It was my first pressure test and I was wearing the stress. Sheesh.
Having said that though, in my world, flattery will get you everywhere. So all those who are backing me to win, pull up a chair, we may be new BFFs ;)
Q: This week was your first elimination – how did you approach it?
A: I usually rock the LBD but the black apron brings with it a deep seated foreboding. Once it's on, your shoulders feel heavier because you know there is so much at stake. Last night was not easy. Besides being in my first elimination round, I was cooking for the legend, Hali Salassie. The heat was on!
Until now, I haven't cooked decidedly Indian food on the show because I think that my repertoire extends beyond those limits. But last night, in a time of stress, I called on the style of food that is most familiar to me.
That combination of curries was something my mum would cook on a weekly basis. She even called me after the episode to take some credit.
Q: What is living with your competitors like?
A: Once we were out of the MasterChef kitchen we were all just friends living in a house together. The competition element subsided once we were back home because being on set was so stressful that we all needed a time out. I've definitely made friends that I will take forward with me, mostly due to the fact that no one, besides the Top 16, know what this process was really like. It's an experience that we share exclusively.
Q: How does the family feel about you being in the competition?
A: My family is the reason that I have such a love for food. Both my grandmothers and my mum are huge foodies and we're always cooking and eating together. They taught me that food brings people together and that you cook for the people you love.
I was in Durban recently and my mum and I went to the Good Food and Wine Show. She didn't realise how much attention I would be getting due to the show and she was quite taken aback when she became the unofficial photographer. In generally, the family seem to be taking it in their strides and are simply happy for me, that I got to a live a dream of mine.
Q: I don’t generally like the way TV competitions like this are run – I feel it crushes people’s dreams for the sake of entertainment. Do you think it is a good way to attain a dream?
A: In reality, peoples’ dreams will be crushed to make room for others to shine. The fact that it's now on TV for the world to see does add an extra element of exposure to it but anyone auditioning for a reality TV show does it with the full understanding that they could win or lose big. Yes, it's a game for those with a penchant for risky business.
In terms of being a good way to attain a dream - I can, without a doubt, say yes. If you think about this in advertising terms, this is a multi-million rand campaign for yourself. Irrespective of how anyone fares in the competition, they have a platform to be able to make their dreams a reality.
Q: How are you balancing life and the competition?
A: The competition hasn't really changed my life much because I am part of the food media anyway. The one thing I can say though is I am being invited to better events though and now I get to sit at the big wigs table ;)
Q: Are you still enjoying cooking or has it become a chore?
A: I love to cook. It makes me feel like an artist and once the cooking is done, it's show time when your guests arrive. My jazz hands are always poised for dinner time. Since the show, there is a bit more pressure on me to cook. Every time I am invited out to a braai or people come over to watch the show, there is an expectation.
I have quickly shattered those hopes though. I cook when I want to and for the people I want to. It's how I keep the joy in cooking. Seems fair, no?
Q: What is downtime for you in between blogging, the competition and your radio show?
A: Downtime for me is going to a yoga class or running on the promenade. As a naturalised Capetonian, I still enjoy the natural elements to this city. After nine years I still Instagram pics of the mountain. It wins me over every time. I have a few really good friends in Cape Town, the ones that hold no pretence or expect anything but my often quirky company. We're often found lunching at farmers markets or just enjoying lengthy meals together. It really is about the simple things.
Q: What has the toughest thing been for you through MasterChef?
A: The toughest thing through this process has been to not say anything to anyone about being on the show. The months between the shoot and it airing have been excruciating because the question "so what's going on?" always had to be answered with a "ah…well…not much", which really wasn't the case at all!
Q: Give us a taste of who Kamini Pather really is? Your likes, dislikes and favourite things?
A: My favourite quote is "a grapefruit was a lemon that saw a chance and took it".
I used to be a competitive figure skater when I was younger. I still have my boots and I go to the rink every so often. I may also still have a Princess Jasmine costume from back in the day…
I'm actually a text book introvert. A social one, of course, but still someone that recharges with alone time.
I'm a big dork for TED Talks videos. I adore them!
One of my favourite drinks is bubbly (MCC). I love the long stemmed glassware and after learning how to sabrage, it's the perfect company for any time of day.
The one food-related thing I'm not mad about are sundried tomatoes. They're shrivelled little things that are usually quite leathery. Gives me the shivers.