Hot off the coals – chef full of praise for Ultimate Braai Master contestants

Nothing much stops the affable Tsogo Sun executive chef Benny Masekwameng — not even a broken foot (he slipped on a wet restaurant floor) — and fresh from judging six weeks of Ultimate Braai Master 5 he is full of praise for the contestants.

 “Ultimate Braai Master is a very challenging competition‚” he said‚ adding that it was true competition to test skills on many levels. “It’s not like working in a normal kitchen (like the pristine MasterChefSA setup of which Masekwameng was a judge). In UBM the participants have to control everything from the fire‚ the most difficult part‚ to deciding what they are going to cook and deal with elements of outdoor cooking like wind‚ rain and sun‚” he said. “There are no electrics‚ different locations to deal with and the contestants managed all the logistics themselves‚” said the chef.

Working with fellow MasterChefSA judge Chef Pete Goffe-Wood and UBM show host Justin Bonello‚ Masekwameng described UBM as “a bit like a ‘Survivor’ cooking competition“.

 “What is possible in an oven is far easier to judge than that cooked over a fire‚” he said‚ adding that the judges still looked for qualities like plating‚ presentation‚ quality and texture of the food‚ but had to take into consideration what it had taken the contestants to get that plate of food together‚ he explained.

“We‚ (the judges) had a lot more freedom in this competition (than MasterChef SA) because we could help the contestants along‚ offer guidance and help them realise their potential and this interaction had helped them not to see us‚ the judges‚ as monsters‚ ” he laughed.

 The most impressive challenge for Masekwameng was the ’High Tea by the Sea” which took place in the second episode in Cape St Francis where contestants were asked to prepare a high tea for the residents of a local old age home and children from Talhado Children’s Haven. “High tea on a braai‚” he exclaimed‚ “how’s that for a challenge? We got tarts‚ cakes‚ savouries‚ the lot — all prepared on a fire.”

 His favourite place on the 7‚000km journey around SA was the Eastern Cape and particularly the Wild Coast. “As much as the experience took me away from my family‚ this trip ticked all the boxes. It was the ultimate road trip‚ a trip of a lifetime featuring different food‚ adventure‚ beautiful places‚ all in one‚” said the chef.

 Ultimate Braai Master 5 saw 10 teams of hopeful ’braai buddies’ take on an epic 7‚000km road trip around South Africa.

Catch the final cook- off‚ on Sunday‚ on etv at 4pm where the three teams of finalists — Muttonheads‚ Salty Flames and Pretty Griddy — compete in some of the toughest of challenges for the ultimate goal‚ the grand prize worth over a million rand for the winning team.

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