King of the kitchen

MasterChef South Africa judge Benny Masekwameng must be one of the busiest chefs in the country.

His services and culinary know-how are in big demand and since his re-appearance on the show, now being flighted on M-Net, he hasn’t touched sides.

He’s currently preparing for his appearances at the Durban Good Food & Wine Show from August 8-11.

Asked whether he watched himself on TV and was critical of his image he laughed loudly. “I do watch myself and I find it surreal,” Masekwameng says.

“I am very critical of myself and am always looking at ways to improve my television image.”

Working on the series has been a life-changing experience for this big, likeable chef who has captured the hearts of television viewers with his warm smile.

“I didn’t expect the popularity of the show to be like this and I have been hectic doing promotions, talks and demonstrations. But I love it. It’s fun. I enjoy travelling, meeting people and, best of all, cooking,” he grins.

Season Two of the series has changed, he said, in that the new contestants are better primed and know what is expected of them.

“You can already see an improved quality and standard. Also, the cooking knowledge of the contestants has been better.”

Masekwameng has a special affinity for KwaZulu-Natal and Durban in particular. He studied catering management at the then Natal Technikon and met his wife in the city. He will be back in the city next month as one of the celebrity chefs at this year’s Good Food & Wine Show, preparing dishes that people can make at home. The ideas are simple, but he’ll show visitors how to enhance the dishes.

“The good thing about South Africa is that there is plenty of fresh food available,” he notes.

“I’ll be teaching people about seasoning. You have to taste your food while you’re cooking – that’s the cardinal rule. You need to give the ingredients the respect they deserve and perfect the dish with the best cooking methods.”

He’s just part of a bumper line-up including James Martin, Indian chef Vivek Singh and the award-winning vegan baker Melissa Morgan.

Masekwameng was inspired at an early age by his mother, who supplied meals to local construction workers to provide the family income.

He reached his first milestone when he graduated with a diploma in Catering Management. He began his career as a trainee at the Hilton hotel in Durban before he branched out into other ventures, before joining Tsogo Sun in 2006.

Masekwameng never realised as a youngster that this would be his dream job.

“I wanted to be an electrical engineer,” he said. “But in the finals I wasn’t good enough and had to go to Plan B. I didn’t realise that Plan B was what I was meant to do.”




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