Joani bows out of MasterChef SA

By admin
08 August 2013

She was one of YOU magazine’s entries last year, but not making it the first time made Joani Mitchell (46) want to try to make it even more.

In 2012 Joani entered MasterChef South Africa season one through YOU magazine.  She prepared a “spicy seafood hotpot”, which took her through to boot camp, but the onion-chopping challenge was her downfall. She didn’t make it into the kitchen the first time, but this made this ex-fashion designer realise how badly she wanted to be a part of the competition.

She came back with a vengeance, made it into the top nine and in the process made one of her dreams come true . . .

What was the first dish you made for the MasterChef judges last year?

The first dish I made was prawn with an avo, cream cheese and tomato stack and a Mary Rose sauce.

How did you feel after not making it into the kitchen the first time?

I went out in the skills test, chopping onions, so I can never again dice an onion without doing it the correct way . . . I was really disappointed not progressing to the kitchen as I felt I had something to offer. However, it’s all in God’s plan and the time between MasterChef SA seasons 1 and 2 gave me the time I needed to refine some of my cooking techniques and also allowed me to grow as a person in order to withstand the enormous pressure that’s part of this incredible journey.

Why did you decide to enter MasterChef again?

I honestly felt I had unfinished business, and I hoped to add value to the show and learn from the chefs and fellow contestants. I think I needed affirmation that I can cook and also to use this experience to steer me in the direction I needed to go with regard to my food dream. Cooking is a real passion for me and I needed to undertake this adventure! I also needed to set an example for my kids, that if you don’t succeed at your first attempt, don’t give up.

Was it worth entering again and why?

Oh yes! It’s been such an amazing ride, and one that has changed me forever for the best. I have learnt so much about myself and how strong I am as a person. It takes massive courage to put yourself on the chopping block (literally) and be open to criticism about something you’re passionate about. I am incredibly self-faulting, and this process has allowed me to be more accepting of and kinder to myself.  It’s highly recommended to anyone who wants to chase an almost-forgotten dream, or just to go on a journey of self-discovery. I have loved every moment and am eternally grateful for it.

It’s also cemented the fact that this is the industry I need to be in . . . which is awesome to discover so late in life!

Did your sons, your husband and the boys from the Sharks rugby academy [for whom she prepares food and who lodge with her] miss you?

My husband, Rory (54), and I have been married for 27 years and this is the first time I’ve gone off to do something purely for myself, so it was an emotional time for us as a family. My husband initially didn’t want me to enter again, in case I didn’t make it to the kitchen and was hurt all over again, but once I’d made up my mind, both he and our two sons, Kyle (25) and Bruce (22), were fully behind me. There were so many lessons along the way; I learnt that they could cope without my constant nurturing and they learnt to “do it for themselves”. The universe also had some positive input, as my rugby boys were away for a period of time while we were filming, so there was less for me to worry about. When they were at home, Rory and the boys did all my chores and made sure everyone was fed and well looked after. I am one lucky wife and mom!

What dish conjures up memories and what are those memories of?

My mother, Manuela, is a fantastic cook and she’s the reason why I love to cook! One of the many dishes she makes is a Portuguese one called Bacalhau (which is Portuguese for cod, which is similar to snoek) made with layers of potatoes, charred green peppers, eggs and caramelised onions, topped with a béchamel sauce, bread crumbs and olives. This brings back childhood memories of me helping her flake the fish for any family events, especially on Christmas Eve.

Why is it important your journey into the MasterChef kitchen should inspire others?

I sincerely hope this journey hasn’t been just about me, but rather that others who’ve given up on a dream will see what happens when you’re willing to chase your passion. It doesn’t have to be about food; it can be dancing, writing a blog or doing community work . . . It all takes courage, perseverance and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone. The rewards are so worth it.

What have you been up to after the competition? Have you opened your cooking school?

Since we finished filming on MasterChef I’ve started my cooking school with a fantastic response (I have a waiting list) and I’ve been doing private catering which is very rewarding, but my most exciting venture has been the launch of my corporate gift food range called Joani’s Meza. It’s a beautifully packaged gift box with a selection of amazing produce which is constantly changing depending on the season and availability of local products. I am excited to try and showcase some of the local KZN producers.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity MasterChef has given me as it’s opened up so many doors and I’m loving every step of the way!

Are you going to enter MasterChef South Africa season three if there is one?

The top 16 aren’t allowed to enter MasterChef again but if there’s an “All Star” season then I may consider. I have no regrets about my experience on the show so I wouldn’t want to go back and relive this journey. The only thing I would do differently is maybe have a little more fun!

-Loren Pienaar

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