I aged at least ten years that last week of September.
I am not sure exactly what I was doing when I received the email to tell me that I had made the final 3 in the Freshly Blogged competition, but I do know this; from that exact moment on my nerves whisked themselves into an unimaginable crazy frenzy of consistent nausea that did not quell or subside for the next week and a half.
The brief that I received sounded simple enough. I would be flown to Johannesburg, met by a driver and be driven to Monte Casino. That same evening, at the Pick and Pay Taste of Jo’burg, I would take part in a mystery basket cook off against the other two finalists, at the end of which the overall winner of Freshly Blogged would be announced.
Now there were a few days to go before the big cook off which left just enough time for my imagination to run the confidence gauntlet; raise the bold flags of insecurity and self-doubt and sound the “I most certainly cannot do this thang” alarm! I realized with horror that I had pretty much passed the point of no return on this wild ride, so I dutifully packed some summer clothes into my bag, along with the remnants of my all-important belief in self, and had Dear Husband drive me to the airport.
On arrival at ORT I met for the first time, in real life, Lara Johnson and Anel Potgieter. It may sound peculiar but seeing that they were equally nervous and a little wide eyed about the events to follow that evening, made me feel somewhat better. Misery loves company and all that.
After what seemed like an extraordinarily long afternoon we met our hosts at 6pm to make our way to the event tent. The next hour and a half passed in a blur of briefings, interviews, kitchen orientations and mercifully chilled glasses of Graham Beck bubbly.
I am so grateful to my uncle, Ken and my beloved friend, Izanne (and her beautiful entourage) for coming out to Monte Casino to love me from the audience. I hardly got to speak to you, but your hugs were like liquid gold, and your running updates to the folks at home greatly appreciated.
I was delighted to have met Jess, Anina, Saleeha and Nanima who were all in the Freshly Blogged competition and who came out to watch the final. I wish there had been more time to talk to you all and of course claim my lemon meringue pie - you know who you are!
How about I take you through some images of the big night? All these fabulous images were taken by Werner Prinsloo from nineteen86 photography. Now get comfortable, we may be a while.
Because fifteen minutes before you cook in front of gazillions of people is the perfect time to teach you something Christi from Pick and Pay ran us through the ovens, stoves and equipment of the kitchen. You can see the pantry ingredients behind me on the shelves.
Our view, although once you start cooking all those folks look like...well nothing, they cease to exist.
And that my friends is a look of sheer terror. But to the left of the deer in the headlights look is Adriaan, the very obliging chef trainee who helped me through the half hour by fetching things and cleaning things and lighting my stove. Yip I could not even get that right. He also neatened everything up and his cleaning skills would have made Dear Husband very proud!
For the first three minutes I chopped onions. I had literally no idea what I wanted to do. I breathed, I prayed, I tried to calm down, and by the time I had chopped the second onion, I got started.
And off I went....
Got some pots and pans on the go, looking all chef like and knowledgeable.
Thirty minutes is a very short time to cook anything, I don't care what Jamie says.
Oh great! My spring rolls started unravelling in the pot. I turned around to make another one to replace it but efficient helper had cleared it all away. C'est la vie baby.
But regardless, when the timer went off I had two dishes up. Pear and chocolate spring rolls with caramel sauce,
and a seared beef bruschetta with caramelized onions and a red wine sauce. Insert inside tears of relief here.
Apparently they all stayed. Look at Lisa from Fresh Living in the front row, tense.
All smiles when it's all over.
The judges, Yvonne Short (Pick and Pay), Justine Drake and Anke Roux (Fresh Living)
After the fact. Yippee for that guy that brought the champagne!
Since then, I have made my radio debut and my win has been documented prolifically in the press - you can view all the various articles here. And drum roll please...I made an appearance on the Expresso Morning show where I made my pumpkin pie from the competition. Actually, I just showed up at the crack of dawn to mix some things together; Claire the food assistant did everything else. That's showbiz folks.
And here are five minutes you will never get back...
I am really not the most competitive person in the world, but I must admit that I enjoyed winning this competition, not because it felt good to win, but rather because it felt good to achieve.
Jim Calhoun, the former head coach of the University of Connecticut's men's basketball team made a speech in 2005, in which he said that basketball “just asks you to play, to compete, to lose with dignity, to win with humility.” It’s such a great principle, that of losing with dignity and winning with humility, because these seem to be the first values we lose sight of in competition.
PS. A big thank you to Dom from Bletchley Park for making sure that I received all the images and press releases relating to Freshly Blogged.