After a disastrous curry dish, Lwazi fails to impress in grueling pressure test
Despite suffering from âflu and being unable to taste his dishes properly, Johannesburgâs Lwazi Mngoma was the 4thcontestant to be eliminated in tonightâs (Tuesday, 24 April) episode ofÂ MasterChef SAÂ after coming undone in the most difficult Pressure Test to date.
At the beginning of tonightâs show, the top 15 contestants arrived at the impressiveÂ MasterChefÂ Kitchen for their very first Taste Test of the series! The judges informed them that their challenge was to taste an intricate curry called Rendang, made by curry specialist Vani Padiyachee, and upon hearing this news, Deena Naidoo (45), the IT specialist from Durban, was in his element! Having perfected curries all his life, Deena thought that he âhad this challenge waxed!â
After tasting the Rendang curry, the contestants were presented with two ingredients at a time, having to choose the one correct ingredient that was included in the curry. The winner of this Taste test would have the advantage of choosing the core ingredient for the following Invention Test.
After three rounds of tasting, even eliminating Deena the curry expert, Capetonian Samantha Nolan was the best taster of the day and was awarded the chance of selecting the core ingredient on behalf of all the cooks for the next challenge. Her options were: lentils, chickpeas and tofu; duck or seafood. Ever the pragmatist, Samantha, being fully aware of the usual time constraints in an Invention Test, did not want to pick something too tricky and as such, chose the seafood.
Judge Pete, the biggest curry enthusiast on the panel, explained to the contestants that a good curry is all about a balance of flavours and how to use to spices to bring out the best in the core ingredient. The Top 2 dishes from this Invention Test would become the team captains for the next team challenge. The worst three dishes would land their cooks in the Pressure Test.
The Top 15 were given only 75 minutes to create a magnificent seafood curry and when the judges counted down to the start of the challenge, the contestants scrambled â as usual – to the pantry in a mad rush!
As the contestants stirred, smelled and cooked up a storm, the judges convened to discuss the action in the kitchen. Pete felt that many of the contestants were over-complicating matters by combining too many conflicting flavours in their dishes. Benny was impressed with some of the innovative approaches heâd witnessed: âIâve seen amazing ingredients that I never thought would be in a curry, like soba noodles and mango,â he noted.
But not everyone in the kitchen was confident with their creations. Lwazi opted for a tomato-based seafood curry with prawns and calamari. The 26-year old entertainment entrepreneur from Johannesburg was suffering a serious head cold and he battled to smell and taste whether his curry was flavoursome enough. As such, he added a second batch of spices to his dish, hoping that the flavours would be to the judgesâ liking, but it was a move that could have spelled his undoing in the competition too.
As the judges took up their positions for the tasting, the tension in the kitchen was palpable as certain contestants were very insecure about their final platings. Durbanite Deena was called up first, and his tomato prawn curry was a triumph! âFinally I have risen to a place where I want to be,â Deena exclaimed ecstatically.
Lwaziâs turn was next, and he was skeptical: âWith my senses all haywire, my nose blocked and my taste buds dead, I just hope itâs not overpowering,â he noted. But Judge Pete was far from impressed. Not only was the sauce inedibly bitter, but as Pete broke open a prawn, he discovered that itÂ was not cleaned and, on top of that, was still raw! âDude, this is disgusting,â Pete scolded, clearly disappointed.
After a few improved dishes from contestants such as Lungi, Thys and Ilse, it was the turn of 42-year old Sarel, who manages an adventure camp in Sabie, to serve his curry to the judges. He was extremely worried about his prawns, thinking that they âmight Titanicâ his chances. When Pete asked him how much he would charge to serve the dish in a restaurant, Sarel admitted that he wouldnât serve this particular dish in a restaurant. Pete agreed, saying that âeverything is fighting for a place in the bowl and it is virtually impossible to eat.â Andrew confirmed Peteâs sentiments, stating that he wouldâve sent the meal back, had it been served to him in a restaurant.
Finally, Sue-Ann, the 30-year old lighting designer from Cape Town, had to serve her yellowtail poached in a curry broth. Andrew immediately pointed out the fact that âthe brief of the challenge was to make a curryâ, and Benny remarked that the meal resembled a poached seafood dish with a bit of curry sauce on the side. âIt was not in line with the challenge today,â he concluded.
It was finally time for final judgment of Day 1 as Benny revealed that the Top 2 dishes of the day belonged to Deena and Thys, who would be the team captains for the next team challenge! But the good news ended thereâŚ Pete could simply not hide his disappointment in the majority of dishes that were presented in the Invention Test. âIâve never looked forward as much to a tasting and never been as disappointed,â he ranted. âI have had better curry from Grade 10 Home Economics classes than some of the garbage that you have served up today. If it was up to me, eight of you would have been going into the Pressure Test,â he continued, clearly livid.
After chastising the contestants, Sue-Ann, Lwazi and Sarel, were called up to face the Pressure Test.
The following day, the bottom 3 contestants arrived in the kitchen, donning their black aprons. But only two judges, Andrew and Benny, were present. âFrom the strong flavours of curry, to one of the most delicate ingredients, this Pressure Test will test you to your absolute limits,â Benny announced. Andrew concurred: âThis is going to be the hardest dish youâve done thus far.â The dish in question? Salmon prepared in three different ways.
The contestants would have to poach salmon in miso-infused olive oil, prepare a salmon tartare with a poached quail egg and finally sear a teriyaki salmon fillet. âBut thatâs not all,â said Andrew as he called out for Pete, who walked into the kitchen carrying a whole salmon! âNot only do you have to cook salmon in three different ways, but also have to fillet your own salmon,â Pete announced before he proceeded with a quick filleting demonstration. With a few expert strokes of his knife, Pete filleted the salmon, making it look deceptively simple.
Filled with trepidation, the bottom 3 took up their positions at their cooking stations. However, before they started, Pete shared an intimidating fact with them: Andrew would be scrutinizing them quite heavilyÂ since he was the gold medal winner in an international cooking competition where he competed against 18 of the worldâs best chefsâŚ and his winning dish was Salmon 3-ways!
On that note, the Pressure Test began in all earnest. Lwazi filleted his salmon like a professional, but Sue-Ann struggled to cut four equal-sized portions from the entire fish. Sarel took his time with the filleting and masterfully cut his salmon into equal portions. After the filleting, the contestants prepared the rest of the ingredients which required precision, attention to detail and following the recipe to the letter.
Time flew as the Bottom 3 went through all the steps to prepare salmon in the three specified ways and in the last few minutes of the challenge, Sarel was feeling the pressure: âMinutes just becomes seconds! This is like an adrenaline high,â he exclaimed!
And on that note, the judges took their seats in the restaurant for the final tasting.
Sarel presented his dish first, clearly chuffed with what he managed to achieve in the time that was allocated to them. âThis is one of the most amazing dishes Iâve made in my life,â he admitted. And he was right to be so pleased, as the judges raved about his near-perfect execution of the dishes!
Lwazi was next to present his version of Salmon 3-ways. When pressed on how he felt, he conceded that âthis dish has gone so far beyond my scope of experience. Everything was difficult.â As Judge Andrew sliced through the poached salmon, he concluded that Lwaziâs poaching liquid was too hot, because it was slightly overcooked. After tasting the dish, Pete commented that Lwaziâs teriyaki salmon was a bit on the raw side and that the tartare was unfortunately not seasoned properly.
Last up was a visibly emotional Sue-Ann who shared that she felt as if her whole life was hanging in the balance. âIâve given up a whole lot of stuff to be here, because this is where I want to be,â she said, tearing up.
With that, Andrew complimented her on the presentation of her dish. She managed to poach the quail egg perfectly, but Pete missed the seasoning in the tartare. Benny noticed that she achieved equal portions on her plate, even though she struggled with filleting the salmon.
As final judgement arrived, Sarel was the first contestant to be told that he was safe from elimination, and Pete reassured Sue-Ann and Lwazi that they had redeemed themselves after the disastrous curry challenge the previous day: âYou both can be very proud of the way that youâve operated under pressure today.â
But one of them had to leave the MasterChef Kitchen and it was Lwazi who left with his head held high: âMaking it to the Top 15 of the very first South African MasterChef is a big achievement and I have to pat myself on the back for what Iâve achieved,â he concluded philosophically.