Masterchef madness

17 January 2013 - 02:02 By ANDILE NDLOVU
MasterChef SA judges from left to right Pete Goffe-Wood, Benny Masekwameng and Andrew Atkinson
MasterChef SA judges from left to right Pete Goffe-Wood, Benny Masekwameng and Andrew Atkinson

The winner of Masterchef SA season 2 will be crowned as early as the middle of next month, but unless the victor is in your family, you won't know who it is for quite some time still.

The recording of the reality cooking show continued on Tuesday at the opulent Nederburg Estate in Paarl, outside Cape Town.

The Times spent a day at the estate, where more than 100 M-Net staffers and contestants will be cooped up for another month.

You can hear a pin drop in the kitchen.

Viewing the action from the gallery above the kitchen is a weird experience. While the TV programme compacts events into a brisk and entertaining hour , the recording feels as if it is in slow motion.

There are no frozen mixed veggies here - you watch each contestant chop each vegetable and season each dish.

It's pure tedium - especially with the several takes and "fake endings" ordered by the executive producer of the series, Donald Clarke.

Crew members walk around purposefully - the first season of the show was a success and even more is expected this time.

One of the most important people in the production, the head of the pantry, Bronwen Smithers, must shift the ingredients needed for the contestants' task today from a -10C mobile freezer to a 4C fridge the size of a shipping container.

"We don't like freezing ingredients and then having to defrost them, so I have to monitor when each item will be needed and I try keep it in the fridge so it's never frozen," she says.

The pantry is a foodie's heaven. Items include toasted bread crumbs, Kalamata olives in brine, various types of tea, atchar and maple syrup.

In the fridge you will find mascarpone cheese, cottage cheese, baby brinjals, baby marrows, blackberries and ricotta cheese; and in the freezer, pastry sheets, bread, chicken breast, mince and fat spread.

Smithers says: "Paarl is my home town so I know where everything is, which makes it easier. I've never not found ingredients."

One of the judges, Pete Goffe-Wood, surveys the contestants' preparations, and keeps flubbing his lines when trying to alert them to how much time they have left.

In the end, he shouts playfully: "Aargh, you have 20 minutes left, just trust me."

The camera is never shy about zooming on a contestant struggling with the menu of the day.

It may make riveting television viewing for us but it is nerve-rending for the cast and crew.