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Q&A with Shannon Smuts from MasterChef SA

Our bubbly graphic designer, Shannon Smuts, was the first to be eliminated from the top 16. We caught up with this fun-loving contestant


What inspired you to enter the MasterChef (MC) competition?

I’ve always loved to cook, and I spent most of my youth in the kitchen. It was a career path I definitely thought I would follow but after I gained an incredible amount of weight during my gap year I developed a super unhealthy relationship with food. When MC came to South Africa it felt like I was being given a second chance to follow my dream.


How did you prepare for the competition?

I read about a thousand food magazines, scoured cookery books and spent as much time in the kitchen as possible trying out new things. I played ‘The Food Game’ a lot: I’d ask someone to list five random ingredients and with basic pantry items I’d develop three dishes. It was actually really fun – it would make a great board game!


You exited in last night’s episode. Did it come as a shock to you?

Yes, incredibly so. I really didn’t expect to go out first and I was pretty sure I had done better in the pressure test, but someone had to be first and unfortunately it was me.


What would you have done differently during your time on the show?

Not much. I went in there with an open heart and open mind knowing that it would change my life no matter what happened. I guess I would have tried to have more faith in what I knew; I definitely felt like one of the least experienced out of the bunch, so I always tried to think out the box. If I had stuck with what I knew and made a healthy seed loaf or something it could have changed everything.


What advice would you give future MC applicants?

To trust in yourself and your talents. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow and change your life, so if it’s your dream, and you know you can cook, then go out there and put it all on a plate!


What plans do you have for yourself now that you have exited the show?

When I came out the house I got involved in a project that Baphumelele Children’s Home has started with its youth – a small organic vegetable farm. After a great meeting with Leo Reid, who runs the project, I decided to start something that could use the farm. I then found out that the coffee shop we’d met in – in the Associated Media Publishing building where I work – was up for sale. As countless times I had said, ‘I would do something so awesome if I had this space!’ I decided to start a restaurant there, called Pure Good. So that’s where I am now, knee deep in spinach, business plans, juicers and green paint! I hope to open in a week or two, serving salads, wraps, smoothies, juices, great coffee, amazing herbal teas and other healthy treats. I’ll buy everything I can from the farm and when they build their kitchen on site I hope to get more involved in helping train the youth for the hospitality industry. It’s an exciting time for me right now!


That is exciting. Please tell us exactly where your new restaurant can be found.

Pure Good is at 21 St John’s Street, Gardens, in Cape Town – diagonally opposite Parliament. It’s below Associated Media Publishing, but is accessible from the street and open to the public. I hope my MC fans will come say hi!


Who is your culinary idol?

It changes all the time, depending on what new things are being done out there, but right now I am mildly obsessed with René Redzepi and the amazing work he does at Noma (I would die for a reservation to go eat there … I would give up a limb). I also love Yotam Ottolenghi who has the ability to take vegetables and turn them into mouthwatering yumminess! His delis are also just amazing visually – so many clever décor elements!


What do you consider to be your signature dish?

Probably my crunchy Thai salad. It’s always what people ask me to bring if I get invited anywhere or get me to make if they come over. It’s because I make the most amazing dressing, which makes the whole thing so moreish you cannot stop eating it!


Whom are you backing to win MC?

Pshew-ee … it’s so hard because I love everyone so much and I want everyone to win! But I’ve got to back and hold thumbs for my roomie, Kamini. And Ozzy’s passion for food is so infectious that I would just love him to be the last man standing!


Would you enter again?

If I was allowed to, then 100% yes! This year was the second time I’d auditioned and I firmly believe that things happen at the right time for the right reasons – you just have to trust that it’s going to be okay in the end. If I hadn’t made it through boot camp I’d be queuing up again for season three.


Pure Good will be open on weekdays from 7.00am to 5.00pm, from Monday 8 July 2013. For more information, visit www.puregood.co.za or call 021 461 3818 or 021 464 6210.

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