Chopped SA is back on South African television screens. The fast-paced cooking competition show premiered on Wednesday and the media were treated to a fabulous meal prepared by the show’s judges at Southern Sun’s The Cullinan Hotel in Cape Town, to celebrate the launch. Bettina Moss was there.
South Africa is only the third country along with Canada to have its own local version of the popular US Food Network show. It’s the first cooking competition show for professional chefs, and it’s giving our local chefs an international platform to showcase their talents.
Denvor Phokaners returns as the show’s presenter along with judges Jenny Morris, Siba Mtongana and David Van Staden, as well as two new judges; Rebecca Hurst, director of the Hurst Campus hospitality school and Lindsay Venn, excecutive chef of the Southern Sun Cullinan Hotel.
“What I loved most about Chopped was watching how the contestants evolved,” said judge Jenny Morris. “At the beginning they were all on the same page. But the moment the first person got struck out, the competition really started to hot up. It was great to see how the chefs grew through the different stages and the different rounds, until we got down to two – and that was nerve-wracking! It gets very tense.
“As a judge I don’t want to break anyone’s spirit. You can’t have favourites, but I do have soft spots. I was quite tearful when there was one chef that I had to chop, because he was so close. I still get emotional thinking about it. I just said to him, “Don’t give up. Come back and come back strong.”
The show is broadcast in over 140 countries around the globe, giving international audiences exposure not only to South African culinary talent, but also to our local food and ingredients like Karoo lamb, biltong, boer-pampoen (sweet pumpkin) and umqombothi (a maize and sorghum beer).
The challenge of the show is to present an outstanding three-course meal using everyday items and a challenging selection of ingredients. Contestants have to stick to a tight 20-minute time limit per course and have to use all the ingredients. Course by course, one chef will be chopped from the competition until only one is left standing and there is a R40 000 prize for the winner.
Henrico Grobbelaar, executive chef at Cavalli Wine Estate, was the winner of the first episode of the new series. Grobbelaar, a qualified polymer engineer, exchanged his career for a chef’s jacket and went on to become one of South Africa’s most creative and celebrated young chefs.
“No matter how experienced you are, when there are 10 or 11 cameras in your face it’s a different ballgame,” said Grobbelaar. “You have to think on your feet. I went from age 34 to age 45 in 20minutes!”
The show airs each Wednesday at 20h00 on Food Network DStv channel 175 and audiences will be treated to a further 4 episodes before finding out who escapes the dreaded chopping block and walks away with the R40 000 prize.
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