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The A-list of local chefs has been announced for BBC Food’s Off The Menu, which is currently filming 13 episodes of the new series in South Africa. Celebrity chef Ainsley Harriot, who also hosts BBC Food’s well-known Ready, Steady, Cook, challenges contestants to cook signature dishes “off the menu” from the acclaimed chefs of some of SA’s top restaurants.

Restaurants as diverse as The Singing Fig, The Restaurant, March (Melrose Arch Hotel) and Le Quartier Francais have been chosen, with contestants having to cook unique dishes ranging from “Roast Loin of Warthog with fruity celeriac Dauphinoise and a bush & berry jus” to “Cotelete di Agnela con polenta con fritelle de Melenzane e salsa di mela”.
 
Each episode of Off The Menu has two teams, with two amateur cooks each, competing to see who has the best culinary skills in choosing the ingredients, devising the recipe, cooking and presenting the dish for that evening. Each chef then joins the contestants towards the end of the 30 minute-show to do the tasting and judging.
 
Chef Jean-Pierre Siegenthaler from the popular Zafferano’s at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Johannesburg is the judge for the first episode. Other high-profile chefs making an appearance in the new series include names such as Johan du Plessis from trendy The Singing Fig in Norwood (Jhb), Michael Bassett from the eclectic Ginja & Shoga (Cape Town), Margot Janse from the legendary Le Quartier Francais in Franschoek, critically acclaimed Graeme Shapiro from The Restaurant in Cape Town as well as chefs from well-loved eateries such as Johannesburg’s African fusion-spot Moyo (chef Nathascha Xisto Das Neves), March (chef Allister Esau), Osteria Tre Nonni (chef Stelio Yagioglou) and O’Galito (chef Gregg Wasp). The chefs also introduce and demonstrate their dishes to viewers during the show, while the contestants are busy cooking.
 
It is the third South African commission (Coxon’s Royal Feast; Gourmet Girls) by BBC Food since the channel launched under two years ago. Johannesburg-based production company Urban Brew will produce the series. The programme is fast-moving and bound to result in some priceless TV moments – especially in the hands of larger-than-life Ainsley. Off The Menu will premiere on BBC Food (DStv) in September 2004.

BBC FOOD is broadcast to over 890 000 subscribers in Africa on DStv and is packed with the best-known chefs and the finest ingredients from around the world. It showcases the best food programmes from the BBC and other leading broadcasters, celebrating simple, modern, fresh, continental cooking. BBC FOOD is wholly owned by BBC Worldwide, the consumer commercial arm of the BBC, and scheduled by the BBC. BBC FOOD was also launched in Europe in June 2003. For more information on programmes, chefs, recipes and schedules, please visit www.bbcfood.com/offthemenu .

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