The happy homecoming after the Top 6’s Mauritian adventure was bittersweet for Cape Town dental technologist Abigail Mbalo (36), who returned to the MasterChef kitchen only to hang up her apron after having to recreate a David Higgs dish in what was the toughest pressure test of the season so far. ?
The Top 6 arrived back in South Africa to the culinary surprise of a lifetime – dinner at the Chef’s Table at Chef David Higgs’s acclaimed Five Hundred restaurant in Johannesburg’s Saxon Hotel. “The idea here is to inspire you a little bit, to give you new courage for probably the most difficult part of the competition,” Chef Higgs told the contestants. ? ?The Top 6 were treated to a sumptuous a six-course meal, paired with some Nederburg fine wines. “It’s like theatre, but, like, triple,” a stunned Roxi exclaimed … “It’s amazing.”? ?Siphokazi was wary, though. “I have to focus because it’s not just treating us, we have to learn and take some tips from the six-course menu,” she noted.
And indeed, once they returned to the MasterChef kitchen on the Nederburg wine estate, Chef Benny Masekwameng announced that each of the Top 6 had to prepare one of the dishes they had tasted at The Five Hundred in an Elimination Challenge – but with no recipe! They had to recreate the dishes purely from their memories of tasting it. ? ?The contestants had to draw their dishes by lifting the cloche off six covered dishes, and Abigail drew the salmon trout dish with orange caviar, which Chef Higgs warned her might appear simple, “but the trick with a simple dish is that you’ve got to get it right. There’s no room for error.”? ?For Philippa it was the chicken dish with quince, and she was just relieved she didn’t draw the chocolate dessert! That went to Sipho, and even Chef Higgs warned that she would have quite a challenge on her hands. “It’s not good for me,” Sipho sighed dramatically.
Roxy drew the other dessert, with the rhubarb jelly and white chocolate mousse and apple ice cream. “I think what’s making me the most anxious is getting it looking like that on the plate,” she observed. ? ?Mel drew her favourite dish off the menu, the prawn dish that they started with at the restaurant, and Ian wisely decided to invoke his Immunity Pin and opt out of this challenge. “I always kind of said to myself if I did get that pin, you’ve kind of got to use it,” he explained, “because you’re stupid not to.” ? ?In a tough challenge Abigail was the contestant who struggled the most, not living up to the high standard that she’d already set in the kitchen, Chef Benny said, and she became the seventh contestant to hang up her apron.
“For me this is an achievement, having gone this far, being Top 6,” Abi noted graciously. “And having experienced all this exposure, and I’ve actually learned a lot. It actually has been an amazing journey.”? ?Next week a new adventure awaits the Top 5 as they are challenged to invent a unique dish using forage from the Cape’s abundant forest floor, fynbos, and sea shore. ?MasterChef South Africa is broadcast exclusively on M-Net Channel 101 every Thursday evening at 19:30, and now all the episodes of the season so far will be available via DStv Catch Up on DStv Explora!
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