Put 30 of your closest friends on a bus (with a trailer and a combi), and spend a month driving to some of South Africa’s most lekker spots. Whenever you feel like it, stop, cook up a storm and party on down. Eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we pack up and do it all again.
Sound like a really excellent jol? It is, and Cooked, the latest South African programme made for BBC Food (Channel 70 on DStv), is the result. Starting at 9pm on Tuesday April 18th, this freewheeling story of food in the fast lane is told – and cooked – by amateur chef and life enthusiast, Justin Bonello. There are no retakes, no contrived angles, no script. The guys venture out into the wild and film everything – the scenery, the adventures, the interaction and, of course, the food.
“I wanted to do a show that wasn’t just about preparing food but about the pleasure of eating it and the real experiences that go on around it” says Justin – whose day job is as a film unit manager and who’s been cooking since his grandmother taught him how to make pancakes at the age of seven. “I’m not a chef, I’m just an ordinary guy with a passion for life, love, food, the great outdoors and being with people I really like and I thought, why not do a programme that combines all of them? – and came up with Cooked.”
Justin shot a pilot and David Weiland, BBC Food Commissioning Editor, liked it so much he made a commitment to place the series on BBC Food once it was made. “South Africa has delivered some superb programming for BBC Food and, as soon as I saw Justin’s pilot, I knew we had something genuinely innovative here,” says Weiland. Justin (with help from his mother who also works in the film industry and is the show’s producer) got out on the road and embarked on this 4 500km fantastic road trip.
The journey starts and ends in Cape Town, taking in the Karoo, Tsitsikamma, Hogsback, the Wild Coast, St Francis Bay, Knysna, the Cedarberg and Suiderstrand in between. Along the way the motley crew camp, commandeer houses or bunk up at the nearest backpackers after enjoying fantastic food courtesy of Justin. He cooks using whatever wonderfully varied and fresh local ingredients are available and creates dishes that are exotic (Rooibos smoked trout ravioli with a burnt garlic and Tequila sauce), diverting (Thai Paella), comforting (homemade tagliatelle with tomato seafood sauce) and plain life-saving (the best hangover breakfast ever tasted with a South African Bloody Mary, not literally, thrown in)! Aside from the food and the cooking, the countryside is a big part of each programme, and each episode has its own strong story line with events unfolding spontaneously and unrehearsed.
“I’m incredibly pleased with the finished series,” says Weiland.” Justin says he hopes that Cooked will inspire people to get out there and do something similar. Whether that happens or not, this is the kind of fresh, dynamic approach to food and life that keeps our viewers hooked.”
Cooked premiers on BBC Food (Channel 70 on DStv) at 9pm on 18th April. It runs for 13 episodes.