THEY went from frantic to calm to frantic again, but at the end of an intense cooking experience Martinette Magnee triumphed over Dallas Land to claim the Kitchen Maestro 2013 title.
It was no easy feat as the judging panel at last Saturday’s final said that right up to the dessert it was still too close to identify an outright winner.
Dallas, an academic manager at a language school in Jeffreys Bay, and Martinette, a locum optometrist from Walmer Heights in Port Elizabeth, had previously beaten three other semifinalists for a spot in the finals. Kitchen Maestro ran over eight weeks and was held in partnership with Weekend Post.
The semifinalists in turn had been determined by a series of weekly cook-offs in the Walmer Park Shopping Centre promotions arena. The three who fell out – Berita Chigome, Heidi Reid and Chenel Robey – came along last weekend to support Dallas and Martinette in their bid for the title.
In previous weeks contestants were given recipes though these often had the method of preparation deliberately left out. This time Dallas and Martinette each had to create three courses using little more than their own imagination (and no recipe). It was difficult to prepare for the challenge ahead of time as they had to take turns drawing mystery ingredients from a hat and then had to use these as the basis for a starter, main course and dessert.
For his starter, Dallas’s mystery ingredient was spinach and Martinette’s courgette, while for the main he drew beef and she chicken. For dessert his choice was strawberries while Martinette drew peaches.
The two then had a few minutes to think up a menu using the chosen ingredients, followed by a frantic trolley dash in Pick n Pay to shop for everything they might need – all within a strict time limit and only R400 each to spend.
Only then could the cooking begin in earnest. Martinette’s starter was Gruyere-crumbed rainbow trout on courgette ribbons served with a grenobloise sauce (made from browned butter, parsley and capers) while Dallas made a Mexican quesadilla stuffed with veggies and kidney beans with citrus sour cream and avocado alioli on the side.
For mains, Dallas made beef fillet stuffed with blue cheese and pear served with sweet-potato and butternut croquettes, while Martinette made herb and feta-stuffed chicken on couscous with roast tomatoes on the side.
Dessert saw Dallas doing a deconstructed cheesecake with strawberries. However it was Martinettes decision to go the ambitious route of baked custard with stewed peaches, basil and peach salad and a tuile biscuit that most impressed judges Dewald Hurter, of Chez Patrick restaurant in Port St Francis, Russell Booth of Pick n Pay, Tracy Rivington of PE Hotel Group, Rene de Lauwere of Adel Kitchens and Leonie Scheepers of Growthpoint. Dallas acknowledged the best cook on the day had won while Martinette got her family to join in a triumphant “yay” when she was named the winner of a prize package worth more than R60000.