As a teenager growing up in Buffalo Flats, Charnell Young was expected to have the rice cooked by the time her mother came home from work, and now she is in line to win R1-million for her culinary skills in M-Net’s amateur foodie reality show My Kitchen Rules South Africa.
Young, 37, who matriculated at Clarendon High School for Girls before studying graphic design at the East London Technikon, and her cooking partner and best friend Kerry Sonn, 35, made it into the finals in a white-knuckle semifinal round against engaged couple Brent Lindeque and Andrew Ross, which aired last Sunday evening.
Their menu of beetroot and goat’s cheese prepared two different ways, duck breast main and an espresso panna cotta had judges David Higgs and J’Something and a panel of celebrity judges in raptures.
Next Sunday’s second semifinal will reveal whether Young and Sonn will face Cradock mother-and-daughter duo Lani and Louzel Lombard or husband and wife team Jamandi and Machiel Bekker in the grand finale on December 10.
Because the cook-offs are filmed well ahead of broadcast, Young has already faced the other team in the finale, but is in the dark about who is R1-million richer. “The wait is the hardest, most intense thing,” said Young, who now lives in Johannesburg with her husband Angus Young, also from East London, and sons Eli, 5, and Cael, 2.
“I keep thinking back to the comments the judges made and looking for glimpses of hope [that we won].”
Nevertheless, she has already fantasised about the debts she will pay off and the trip she and her television cooking partner and their husbands will take to Greece if they win.
“I am so excited because I never thought we would get this far. I never thought far ahead in the game because I knew fear and doubt could kick in. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was physically, emotionally and mentally challenging.
“We would film the whole day, from 6am to 9pm. There were a lot of takes,” Young said.
Although judges Higgs and
J’Something may have come across as detached on TV, Young said they were encouraging and warm off-camera.
“If they saw we were falling apart they would give us a word of encouragement.”
On the downside, Young, who is a creative director of a Johannesburg branding and architectural agency, was taken aback by negative social media comments.
“It was my worst struggle. Some nastiness came out, but it is because we were edited to be bitchy. At the end of the day it is a game and you have to play it the way you feel is right,” Young said.
Although she cannot say what she and Sonn conjured up at the finale, Young said they prepared one of their best dishes ever.
“People underestimated us during the show. We were the underdogs, but whatever the outcome, we are proud because we came out of our comfort zone and really pushed ourselves.
“This has brought Kerry and I closer together. We never fight and have so much respect for one another.”
Win or lose, the duo are already planning their foodie future.
“We want to entertain people in their homes making special dinners, wine pairings and table décor. We already have a name for ourselves but it is a secret for now.” — barbarah @dispatch.co.za