This week M-Net’s popular reality cooking competition My Kitchen Rules South Africa whisked viewers off to Manenberg on the Cape Flats for an emotional experience no one will forget in a hurry, as cousins Ashley van Heerden and Christin Daniels embarked on a quest that went beyond the usual effort to impress their fellow competitors and the judges with their culinary skills.
While their score puts them in the danger zone, their emotional impact on viewers and dinner guests was immense and their message of hope for the people of Manenberg came through loud and clear. A greater sense of love for and devotion to one's community is hard to imagine. They set out to put Manenberg on the map, and this they did with panache. At the end of the evening, there wasn't a dry eye in the room - even hard-boiled celebrity judges J’Something and David Higgs shed a tear.
Turning a big empty space into an elegant Instant Restaurant is a daunting task, but for the cousins it was an obvious choice. “Creating something from nothing is the story of Manenberg,” Ash explained. To summarise their cooking style of homely, hearty dishes infused with global flavours, they decorated their Instant Restaurant with proteas, a symbol of their heritage, and folded paper aeroplanes, to represent their travels abroad.
For starters, Ash and Chris prepared tomato bredie potstickers in a green pepper broth. It was not quite the start they hoped for. Their guests were surprised to find the dumplings inside the broth, and for judge David the presentation defeated the purpose of the crispy dumpling. Some guests nevertheless wished the portions had been bigger!
Even before the mains were served, the judges were worried about the ambitious choice - calamari three ways (rooibos-smoked, lemon grilled, and panko-and-coconut fried). Although the calamari was well-cooked, which is difficult to achieve, the consensus around the table was that it failed to hit the high notes the pair had aimed for.
For dessert, Ash and Chris whipped up a white chocolate-and-litchi cheesecake, with sake foam. While everybody raved about the cheesecake’s faultless texture, the sake foam had disintegrated and the flavours of the chocolate and litchi were lost.
The dinner guests gave Ash and Chris a combined score of 45 out of 100, 10 points behind Jozi food buddies Donald and Luyanda, which means their place in the next phase hangs in the balance. Even so, they regard the evening as a success. Ash explained: “Whenever I have entered international spaces, and people knew where I was from, they would judge me for it. As a result of that, I’ve always been ashamed of where I came from. To have communities like this highlighted on any platform and being spoken about positively, is unheard of! My emotions are not for me this evening. It’s for a kid sitting in Manenberg who thinks that he can’t do it, or she can’t do it. This evening they can look at us and be proud. Proud of where they come from and proud of where they’re going.”
Touched Twitter fans responded with a barrage of heartfelt messages on #MKRSA, commending Ash and Chris for the beautiful way in which they showcased their community.
At the end of the current round of five Instant Restaurants, the duo with the lowest score will be eliminated while the others will move on to the next phase of the competition at the MKR Headquarters in Jozi. Will Ash and Chris join Donald and Luyanda and current frontrunners married couple Maritsa and Marradine? It all depends on the outcome of the upcoming two Instant Restaurants. Up next is Parkview moms Maj and Joleen, and engaged couple Dirk and Bhaia from Somerset West complete the round.
My Kitchen Rules SA is broadcast on M-Net channel 101 every Sunday night at 18:00. Viewers can also visit www.mnet.tv/mkr to watch exclusive interviews with the judges and contestants, and follow all the breaking news and conversations around the show on Twitter @MNet / #MKRSA or on the official M-Net Facebook page.
** Iris House Children's Hospice cares for special needs children and their families by providing best-practice respite care, holistic therapies and social support services. To find out how you can support this charity with donations, or if you wish to serve as a volunteer, go to www.iris-house.org . You can also visit their Facebook Page, or call them at 0219100539