MasterChef: the hype at Makers Landing

Viewers hooked on Season 4 of MasterChef SA will know it was filmed at our very own local food destination Makers Landing. Be part of the excitement by attending the last two free public cooking demos hosted by judge Zola Nene (Sat 19 March, 11am) and guest judge Bertus Basson (Sat 26 March, 11am) or visit on Sunday 20 and 27 March to meet the contestants voted out that week.

The show’s Pick n Pay Green Pantry helped contestants think about sustainability in the kitchen. Find out what the MasterChef judges think of conscious consumption in our exclusive Q&A with Justine Drake, Zola Nene and Gregory Czarnecki.

What’s your contribution to the sustainability conversation?

Zola: I think we are all moving in the direction of becoming conscious consumers who genuinely care about the environment and where our food comes from. We all have a role to play, and it is everyone’s responsibility to make choices that you know are kind to the environment. Personally, I try to eat with seasonality in mind. I am also very aware of where my ingredients are sourced from and seek out local produce.

Justine: I’m pretty passionate about sustainability in all its forms, from recycling and reusing, to water waste and supporting and championing local and sustainable food sources. In my own home, we have compost, landfill and recycling bins, we grow our own vegetables, we have chickens and we have sunk a borehole with our neighbours. I’m pretty militant with my kids and colleagues when it comes to food waste, recycling and conscious consumption.

Gregory: At this point, sustainability shouldn’t be a choice but rather the first thought that comes to mind when sourcing your food. Know where your products come from, support and empower small communities, reduce the environmental impact… Those should be the deciding criteria for choosing what you put in your mouth.

Which are your favourite South African ingredients, and what’s your ultimate way to work with them?

Zola: Rooibos is an indigenous ingredient that I use often, but not only to drink… I cook with it quite a lot and use it in baking as well. Sorghum is a local ingredient that I grew up eating and still eat as porridge; it’s also great popped into popcorn or used as a substitute for rice in grain form.

Justine: Oooh, there are a few… starting with local olive oil (we produce some of the best in the world), which I use in and on everything. I also love me a sugar bean – they pop up in many of my soups and stews. I also use a lot of amasi – full fat, full flavoured and amazing for dressings and marinades.

Gregory: I love buchu. It’s so unique to South Africa. Last time I used it I made a quince terrine cooked with buchu-infused verjuice syrup served with a crème fraîche ice cream. I also love mebos , and that sweet-sour-salty taste of the dried apricot. I once made a stock with that flavour profile, which I turned into a veil that I used to build a mille-feuille, with a thin layer of local cheese.

Any tips for buying sustainable fish?

Zola: SASSI is the source I always use. If the fish is not green listed, I don’t buy it. What’s great about the SASSI site is that they offer alternatives for orange- and red-listed fish, so consumers are educated to make sustainable choices.

Justine: Buy fish with bright, bulging eyes and red gills, and go for fresh over frozen where you can. Support local fisherfolk and buy from places like Abalobi (who deliver, by the way) – their app is a thing of beauty, and tells you everything you need to know about the fish you are eating.

Gregory: A great way to source the right fish is to support small-scale fisheries. Support the livelihoods of fishing and coastal communities and respect basic human rights. Responsibly sourced fish minimise the impact on fish stocks and marine environments. With, you have full traceability of the products you buy, and fair, transparent pricing.

What were you most impressed by in the Pick n Pay Green Pantry that MasterChef contestants had access to, considering its eco-conscious approach?

Justine: The amount of local ingredients, from wine, tea and olive oil, to chocolate, coffee and indigenous grains; the wonderful dispenser jars (not packets) of ingredients, and the choice of interesting vegetables, from celeriac to white corn. It was like a foodie’s dream come true.

Gregory: The pantry offered us all a lot of inspiration. Having the produce in front of you, ideas start to flow. It was important for our contestants to learn how to respect all that noble produce by appreciating its back story. When you understand the full picture it is easier to see what that food stands for and how precious it really is.