Justin Bonello Q & A

We chat to the ultimate braai master, Justin Bonello about life, fires and food.

21 Jan 2014
justin bonello

WIN Justin Bonello's new cookbook 'Roads Less Travelled: The Ultimate Braai Master Second Series' by clicking here.

Q1. How was the show, Ultimate Braai Master,  different last year and what were some of the challenges?

First up, we didn’t have the same sort of angst we experienced  when producing the first season of the Ultimate Braai Master with over 80 crew and contestants traveling across South Africa.
In the First Season we made a lot of mistakes on a technical level, but we fixed those mistakes in Season Two.

Secondly, we realised that we had this opportunity to really showcase South Africa’s locations that were more off the beaten track – we got to show the most breathtaking destinations to not only South Africa, but also the world.

Thirdly, the worry that we have in terms of reality television – where it’s not only about good content and good ideas, but the contestants needing to be interesting characters (it is still a TV show). Out of the First Season we realised that the Braai Masters and the group of friends give you great characters and story – they are those natural, outgoing people you need on a show. Then the caliber of the food that was produced in the Second Series was much higher, but please understand that all these guys and girls that come on this journey start off as good cooks, but then when they spend 60 days on the road with Marthinus Ferreira and Bertus Basson, cooking every day, they become very good cooks by the end of the series.

That being said, please don’t think that this is only a game for master chefs…it’s a game for everyone and the longer you’re in it, the better you become and the bigger your chances are of getting your hands on the cash.

Q2. What was your favourite place that your visited?

Definitely Lesotho. I always say that if you’re South African and you’ve never visited the Mountain Kingdom, then you’ve never truly lived. It is one of the most beautiful, humbling experiences that you’ll ever have.

While we were there, we had the opportunity to feed an entire village. These people have to grow their own food to survive and they live just above the breadline. It was such an incredibly humbling experience to be able to feed them a feast that they’ve probably never had in their lives – plus we could leave the leftover pantry behind – all the food that wasn’t used in the challenge, which was enough food to see them through the month.

Q3. What was the most difficult logistical thing to organise?

Probably looking after the crew. This year, we were a team of 60 strong working together for over two months straight, so traveling and being on time, making sure everyone’s got food, a bed to sleep in etc - it can easily become a logistical nightmare.

Strangely enough, more than that, the most difficult logistical thing to organise were our days off: because we work so hard, when we finally have a day off everyone kind of explodes and their day off becomes a day of recovery and then we’re straight back into the grindstone. So our worst logistical nightmare was managing our time off.

Q4. Can you share some funny moments during the shooting

Sure. When you’re on the road with a group of people that have all become like this giant traveling family, you develop a culture of punking. 

Everything from Marthinus putting bricks in the bottom of my bag and me carrying them halfway across the country before realising they were there. And stealing our 2nd director’s Robbie Whitehead’s underwear and socks out of his bag to punking the contestants in Lesotho. You can check out some of it here.

Q5. How do the contestants get on behind the scenes?

Listen, when you put 30 strangers together and send them on the road for 60 days, obviously there’s bound to be some arguments that come to the surface, but all in all I would say that the contestants made friends for life.

They met people that they may not have met in their normal social circles. It’s amazing to see how all these strangers are friends and are still carrying on these friendships even after the show.

Q6. What was your favourite dish of the show?

Wow, there were so many! But I think it was probably Kate and Jonno’s Tuna Burger they made in JHB. It’ so good that it’s featured in the new cookbook, Ultimate Braai Master: Roads Less Travelled!

Q7. What was the most surprising dish?

I must admit I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth and the West Coast Bro’s Chocolate Pud is to die for! They actually taught me a thing or two about cooking on an open fire. (And yes, this recipe is also in the new cookbook)

Q8. What was the most innovative dish?

When you put the contestants through the sort of challenges we do in the time frame that we do, I think every episode, every dish was an innovative one. It was very rare that we would be disappointed by what they made.

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