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Since Y2K reality TV has dominated the world’s television. Shows like Big Brother, Idols and Survivor have been duplicated in multiple countries and languages. Today, our television screens are over-run with reality shows dealing with a range of topics: from dancing, singing, and dating, to surviving on remote islands. The spectacle, the drama, but mostly the ‘unscripted’ realness of it all is what distinguishes reality TV from the ever popular sitcoms, crime,and medical dramas – and this ‘spontaneity’ is what makes it so undeniably attractive.
South Africa has recently caught on to this ‘reality show’ phenomenon. Making our own versions of American and British reality shows (think Idols South Africa and Big Brother South Africa), we try to add a bit of South African spice to the reality show mix. And of course, being a country proud of its local cuisine, a reality cooking show promises to be an instant hit in this country.
And that’s exactly what MasterChef South Africa turned out to be. South Africa has taken a show already familiar to 33 other countries and made it their own. Even though it is currently only in its first season, it already has the country talking, and cooking.
MasterChef, a “reality cooking competition for amateurs,”s coming from a variety of different backgrounds and age groups competing for the title of South Africa’s first MasterChef. And the competition is tough. Cooking is an integral part of South Africa’s culture, and as the show proves, we have a lot of talent and creativity in this field. Each show promises a good deal of drama, laughter and tears.
The show has also received criticism. Most South African reality shows have been criticized for not being South African enough, merely imitating versions of their American or British progenitors with South African hosts and participants, but no local flavor. It was hoped that MasterChef South Africa would be an exception to this rule, creating its own unique version of this reality series. Some say that the participants and menus are South African enough. Others, however, are of the opinion that the show is too ‘Americanized’: it merely recreates the American MasterChef in a South African setting.
Regardless of these criticisms, MasterChef remains a popular reality show in South Africa. One indicator of its local origins are its local products and sponsors. In fact, Woolworths Food, a major South African brand, has started adding basic ingredients from the show to its advertising campaign and supplies (Woolworths being the food retailer of MasterChef South Africa). MasterChef has even been featured in Woolworths’ magazine for foodies, the Taste Magazine.
Woolworths has also teamed up with Nederburg, a leading South African wine range and fellow sponsor of MasterChef South Africa, to create two wines that would be sold exclusively by Woolworths. Although Woolworths has always sold select Nederburg wines, it seems that this duo’s combined sponsorship of MasterChef South Africa has led to the creation of this unique collaboration and two unique (and affordable) wines: a medium-bodied Grenache and a Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay blend.
MasterChef South Africa, then, has truly been an appetizing inspiration on the telly and in the kitchen. From the creation of new wines to the creation of unique multi-cultural dishes, this reality show has entered the homes and lives of many South Africans.