South Africans are a unique bunch of folk, we are known as the rainbow nation and are a cultural melting pot with so many different and diverse people. Today, the 24th of September, we celebrate our heritage, although we are all different and have many cultures, we all love a good braai and hence the concept "Braai Day" was born. It's not created to stem away from the importance of the day but rather to embrace it by doing what we South Africans love doing the most.
Last night we kicked off the Heritage Day celebrations in Durban with a Celebrity Braai Challenge at the Suncoast Hotel Pool deck. A group of 10 teams, each led by a local celebrity competed for the honors of SA's best braaier. I was invited by the organisers Dan Nicholl and Jan Scannell to get a team together 4 days prior to the event. Now putting together a team for a braai isn't as easy at it seems. Although this was in the name of fun, everyone wanted to win. So after a long process of screening and elimation I finally had my team ready.
- Kajal Bagwandeen ( The Beauty) - TV personality and Dancer extraordinaire
- Deeolan Govender ( The Spice Merchant) - Marketing Manager for Robertsons Spice & Rajah
- Vickesh Dayanund ( The Fire starter) - No one can control an open flame better than him!
With not much time to plan we had a rough idea on what we were going to make and what the strategy was going to be. After a quick meet and greet by the event organisers it was time to get on with business! Deeolan took charge of preparing the steaks, Kajal had prepared a special marinade for the lamb had that on the go, the night before I mixed up a tandoori rub for the chicken, after mixing it with some yoghurt and fresh minced garlic/ ginger it was ready to go on the skewers.
While we were busy with the meat preps, Vickesh had the fire on the go, we were told that points would be deducted if we opted for coal and not wood so he had built up an all wood fire. We were allocated with some help in the form of one of the dancers, Kimberly who helped us whip up a sweet and spicy wors basting sauce. Once the fire was calm and ready for cooking, on went the meat. Ensuring all of it was cooked to perfection, we were ready for plating.
Kajal was on the ball with making sure the table was neat and clean for judging and took pride in the plating, proving that although men feel that a braai is their place a woman's touch always comes handy. She also made a mint, coriander, yoghurt dip for the chicken and provided other condiments to accompany the other food. Being one of the first teams to be judged by the panel was always nerve wrecking but we were confident. Jan and the executive chef from Suncoast seemed happy with what we had prepared with the tandoori chicken and dipping sauce being firm favourites.
After the judging was complete, it was time for the prize giving. In 3rd place came former Bafana Captain Neil Tovey's team, 2nd place was awarded to Team Suncoast and the overall winner was Team Brent Russell who secured the services of Mike Meyers, owner of Durbans most famous coal fired steak house, BarBaCoa. Due to the prizes being sponsored by Suncoast the GM was kind enough to return their prize and award it to the team that came in at 4th place which turned out to be mine! Not having known about the prizes on offer, it was a good surprise for us and a nice touch to say thanks to those that stepped in to help!
Overall it was a great event that encapsulated what being South African was, with various folk from different cultural background all celebrating around fires that united us all. Once again, a big thank you to the members of my team and others that stepped in to help. "A Captain is as only as good as his team" and I had a damn good team! To all South Africans, have a wonderful Heritage Day, celebrate the wonderful country we are blessed to live in.