JUSTIN BONELLO the Ultimate Braai Master

March 10, 2014

How old were you when you first prepared a meal?

The first time I really started playing with food was when I was still a kid – I can’t give you an exact age, but it was definitely before I was 10. I was lucky enough to grow up in the great outdoors, spending most of my school holidays on the banks of the Breede River and on the Wild Coast. Growing up there meant that my cooking skills developed along with the need to know what to do with the fish I caught or the mussels I harvested. There were loads of experiments in the beginning– some good and some really bad, but that was the start of my journey.

Is there anyone that has been a culinary influence in your life?

My grandmother. She gave me my first crepe pan when I was only seven years old. I still use that pan today. I also have a soft spot for the late great Keith Floyd – who wouldn’t love a man who knew how to cook and drink at the same time?

What are the perks of cooking outdoors?

Other than the views, probably that there are no real rules in this space. The second perk is that it’s a bit primal as well – we all connect through the fire. It’s hardwired into our DNA.

If you could invent the perfect braai oven what accessories would it have?

Most importantly, a kuier fire.

Choose any destination worldwide to light a braai, where would you end up and why?

It will always be the Wild Coast. That space is magic for me.

Do you have any culinary stalkers or groupies?

I’ve had a couple of weird people on Facebook (now blocked) but other than that I’m really just a humble, everyday guy that happens to be on TV. (Although I have received a marriage proposal marriage from Russia in the past…) So if I have any stalkers, I don’t think I would notice them, unless they threw a brick with a note through my bedroom window. But I’d advise against that… I have a big dog.

What is the strangest food you have ever tasted?

Phew, I get this question a lot and there is definitely more than one culinary ‘adventure’ that comes to mind. I’ve eaten the infamous ‘Karoo oyster’, nibbled on mice on the banks of the Pungwe River in Mozambique and gnawed on some goat brain on a farm called Angora in Jansenville.

Is there anything you cannot cook on a braai?

Sure. I just haven’t found it yet but veggies are a pet hate.

Choose from the following super powers:

Ability to shoot flames from your fingers

To be invisible

To transform into a wild animal?

Ah! Can’t it be all three? But if I have to choose, invisibility would probably be my first choice. One of my favourite things is to hit the road and get away from the grind of city life. So if I could be invisible that would be first prize! It could also be fun to be the fly on the wall at our office and see what my crew really gets up to when I’m not around.

If you had to prepare a bush meal for God and the Devil what would you cook?

Those are not really two guys that I would like to have sitting around my braai fire together. Although, that said the braai is a unifier, so with the right amount of liquid refreshments and a good old potjie kos – who knows what might happen…maybe it will spark a conversation between the two of them with me as a referee.

The Ultimate Braai Master TV series has been a huge success, what do you attribute that to?

The key thing about the Ultimate Braai Master is that it’s a show made by South Africans, starring South Africans and produced for a South African audience that taps into the South African psyche. It is also sponsored by an entrenched South African brand, Pick n Pay and produced by a proudly South African production company, Cooked in Africa Films! What else could be more South African?

Who are the new judges for Season 3?

Bertus Basson will be returning for the third consecutive season which is fantastic as we have become great mates (I am going to his wedding!) Sadly Marthinus Ferreira from DW eleven-13 is focusing on his own journey in 2014 so we are sad to see him leave, but we are thrilled to announce that Season 3 will see Chef Petrus Madutlela join us as the new Judge. He’s been working in a One Michelin Star restaurant in London and had a whirlwind culinary career so far! We are really proud and excited to have him on board this year and can’t wait for the journey.

Any tips you can give us to improve our chances of winning a spot on the show?

Just be true to yourself, practice and be prepared. Also, ‘wowing’ us with another stuffed fillet isn’t going to help you secure a spot.

Who would you most like to be stuck in the bush with?

Depends how long I’m stuck for! Could be a fun adventure to have with my wife and kids with me though – I travel so often without them; it would be great to have them with me. I often joke with them that I have seen more spectacular sunrises and sunsets on my own, so to be stuck in the bush with my family would be ideal.

Finally, all the best for Season 3 and let us know when you can teach some of our Rugby lads some cooking skills?

Thanks! Anytime, although a lot of them seem to be accomplished cooks already. (And they’re all bigger than me…)

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