Viewers are salivating over the return of popular home-grown food reality TV shows.
Aside from SABC2’s “The Taste Master SA” returning for a second instalment, M-Net’s “My Kitchen Rules SA” is back for season 3 and the channel also recently announced the return of “MasterChef SA” season 4 in February 2022.
Right now, all eyes are on season 7 of e.tv’s “Ultimate Braai Master”, which sees celebrity chef Benny Masekwameng return as a judge for the third time.
And he’s joined by his culinary partner in crime, Pete Goffe-Wood, while Justin Bonello proves his Midas touch as the presenter.
In the 13-part series, 10 paired contestants are put through their paces in the great outdoors.
They have to prove their skill, fiery passion and adaptability in a slew of challenges.
In a recent chat with Masekwameng, he shed light on the show’s return.
He explained: “Yeah, obviously we have been sitting for more than two and a half years before we could do season 7, so it came as great news for me and everybody that is involved with the show, even with the challenges of lockdown and Covid.
“Pete and I have come a long way. I think this is our 11th year doing stuff that’s food judging, restaurant judging and all sorts of judging.
“It was something I was looking forward to.
“Obviously, you mentioned our chemistry and how well we work together.”
Masekwameng continued: “This season is special but not different to the other seasons that we have done with him in terms of the excitement of being on the road and getting to taste all these foods and also the challenges that we have in store for the contestants.
“It was great working with him again and, hopefully, we can do 10 more seasons with him.
“Even if it is not with this show but with a different show. With Pete and Benny, things will always work out.”
On Bonello as the host, he added: “He’s been doing it for longer than anyone else in South Africa, in terms of cooking shows and ’Ultimate Braai Master’ itself.
“We also gel well together with Justin. He knows his stuff.
“And he’s the guy who will tell you more about the places that we go to and how hard the challenges are going to be and what is required for a contestant to stay in the game. He’s a very knowledgeable guy.
“I think the three of us complement each other in terms of our expertise and also what we bring to the show itself and also how we relate to contestants on the show.”
So what can viewers look forward to this season?
Without any hesitation, Masekwameng pointed out: “So this season is the best one yet, just to let you know.
“A lot of people have been at home during the lockdown. A lot of people have been practising and watching reruns of the show and really getting themselves ready for this season.
“And we saw that from the get-go with our heritage dishes. Better than what we’ve had on the previous seasons and, understandably so, as everybody came prepared.
“And we were blown away by the type of combinations that these guys do and what they also do on an open fire, which hasn’t been done in some of the seasons.
“This season, the standard of the food has gone higher, the quality of the food is even better and the flavours and the taste are no less than what you get at a five-star establishment.”
Curious about his unusual combination comment, I asked him to elaborate.
He said: “Without giving a lot away, there is a dish that one of the teams make, which is a fish head curry for the Heritage Day challenge.
“And I lived in Durban for a while and I’ve had my fair share of fish head curries, but this one blew me away. Yoh, these guys man.
“But that is just one of the dishes out of like 1 002 that we had, so it’s definitely on a different level.
“A lot of things that are done on the fire that seems impossible for the normal person was done on this season and viewers are in store for a journey through 50 of the places that we’ve been to in the Eastern Cape plus a journey of food through fire.”
Unlike previous seasons, where pit-stops across provinces were possible, this season, with the lockdown restrictions, things were a little different not that viewers would notice from the places they filmed at.
Braaing in the great outdoors while trying to beat the competition is one thing, but doing so in weather that is unpredictable is a whole other beast.
Masekwameng laughed: “Yes, we love the weather changing, we don’t like when it is perfect all the time.
“But it’s been perfect for all of these challenges that we’ve had for our contestants; we’ve had windy, we’ve had rain, we’ve had ice-cold, we’ve had hotter than hell days, which is exactly what we wanted to put our contestants through. The weather played its part.
“You know how the motto goes, ‘Whether it rains or shines, we braai’.”
Meet the 🔥🔥Gourmet Grill 🔥🔥team Nhlakanipho Sokhela (Sox) and Thabo Rasimeni who are no strangers to the Ultimate Braai Master. Thabo competed last year and was the runner-up. Will they handle the pressure? #ultimatebraaimaster #ultimatebraaimasterseason7 @ch3fthab0 @Chef_sox pic.twitter.com/8uGk4bpOAp— UltimateBraaiMaster (@UltimateBraai) September 16, 2021
On “MasterChef SA” returning, Masekwameng commented: “We’ve been a big part of ‘MasterChef’, you know the seasons that we’ve done. It would have been nice to be a part of this.
“Obviously, it’s a different production and the powers that be make the decisions and, unfortunately, we are just talent and we are not involved with the actual planning of the show.
“It would have been nice to have been involved with this one but I guess whoever is doing this has a different vision, which is also okay.
“We haven’t done ’MasterChef’ since 2014. Whoever they get to do ’MasterChef’, it will be cool as long as it is representative of South Africa and viewers will warm up to that.”
As for his long-awaited cookbook, he laughed: “I’ve been saying it’s coming. And I’ve got all the recipes and stories, I just need to put it together.
“I’m thinking the second half of next year would be ideal for me to say, ‘here’s something or I’m about to release something. But it’s definitely coming.”
“Ultimate Braai Master” season 7 airs on Saturdays on e.tv at 6pm.