• The highly anticipated Mzansi Food & Drink Show, which takes place over the long weekend of 15 to 17 June at the Kyalami International Convention Centre, is set to become the event on the Gauteng social calendar, catering for all ages and all tastes.

    The three-day show will incorporate two previous independently held events, the popular Fire & Feast Meat Festival, and the successful Coffee & Chocolate Expo, as well as three new additions – the Fine Food & Wine Show, the Bar & Good Spirits Showcase, and the Mzansi Food Market.

    One key aspect of the Mzansi Food & Drink Show will be the various exciting competitions that will test the contestants’ knowledge and skills when it comes to cooking, baking, braaing, mixing, and all things food and drink.

    Two of the competitions will revolve around the favourite pastime of many South Africans – braaing!

    The first of these – King of the Braai – is looking for South Africa’s best braaier; 20 of the country’s greatest grillers who will tussle it out with their tongs to see who can impress the judges with their BBQ skills.


    Since the start of May, potential participants have been submitting their entries via the Fire & Feast Meat Festival, flavoured by Six Gun Grill, social media platforms with planned menus an integral requirement of entry submissions.

    Menu requirements include three courses that will need to be cooked in a two-hour time frame: A chicken starter, a beef or lamb mains and, to round things off, a braaibroodjie. One of the key sponsors, Crown National will provide their best-selling food seasoning and sauce, Six Gun Grill, while Weber will supply the braai stands and the charcoal. Contestants are required to bring their own ingredients to create their fabulous, fiery feasts and are also encouraged to bring any decorations to brighten up their braai stations.

    Emcee for the competition will be radio personality, TV presenter, and lecturer Rika Niewoudt, whom braai aficionados will have seen co-anchoring the popular KykNet show, Toks en Tjops.

    Image: Rika Niewoudt/ Supplied

    So what will competitors have to do to impress the judges and lift the crown? Says a spokesperson for the Fire & Feast Meat Festival: “Ultimately, it’s all about the taste, and the braaier that has the tastiest food is going to walk away with the crown.

    “But several other factors will come into play such as appearance and presentation, so it’s also important that the food looks as good as it tastes.”

    Anyone still wanting to enter has until 3 June to submit their entries and can do so via:

    Facebook: @fireandfeastmeatfestival or @themzansifoodanddrinkshow

    Instagram:@fireandfeastmeatfestival or @mzansifoodanddrink


    For the second competition – the Fire & Feast Meat Smoke-Off – the show’s organisers have teamed up with that renowned king of the coals, the smoking hot BraaiBoy (aka Gareth Daniell)!

    So who better then, than the BraaiBoy himself to tell us what it’s all about.

    “As co-founder and director of South African Fire, Smoke & Meat Association (SAFSMA), we’ll be hosting an American-style BBQ competition. There are many jokes about BBQ vs Braai, but in truth BBQ refers to a “low & slow” cooking method, using smoke and indirect heat on large cuts of meat. This is the nature of this competition.”

    Image: Gareth Daniell (Braai Boy)/ Supplied

    What does the competition entail?

    “Six teams will be competing in four meat categories – chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder and brisket. The teams are all given the exact same cuts of meat and simple presentation plates so that the focus is on the end meat result. The winning team has to produce four meat dishes per category that take anything from 90 minutes to 12+ hours to complete. One of the challenges, for example, is making sure that you can keep a massive chunk of shoulder or brisket on the coals overnight without drying it out. Then you have only a 10 minute window in which to submit the dish for judging. Finish too soon and you risk your meat going cold or drying out. Take too long, and you’ll turn in a dish that is under-cooked or tough. The contestants competing in these competitions have spent hours and hours learning, practicing and honing their skills. The public is encouraged to come and chat to the competitors during their cooks and learn from each team.

    “In previous competitions we’ve tried to only do cuts, such as wings and ribs, which can be smoked and cooked in a few hours, but then we lose the very essence of competitive BBQ. So this year, the competition will run over two days. Teams will prep and light fires on Friday, 15 June and cook throughout the night, without sleep! Judging will commence at 15:00, with prizegiving at 17:00 on Saturday, 16 June.”

    And what will the judges be looking for in this competition?

    “SAFSMA is a member of the World Barbecue Association and affiliated with several other international BBQ groups and organisations. For this specific competition we’ll be following the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) judging criteria. There are pages and pages of rules and criteria that you can look up online, but if this is something that interests anyone, then you have to visit the Fire & Feast section of the show on any of the three days. Any of the teams or organisers will gladly share their knowledge and experience.”

    How does the scoring work across the four meat categories?

    “The judges have a lot to consider, but at the same time it’s broken down into three quite simple scores for each category – appearance, tenderness and taste. Tenderness counts for double the points than appearance does and then taste counts for double the points than tenderness does! In reality it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it.”


    How can show-goers get involved?

    It’s a tough and very time-consuming competition, but much of that time is spent staring at a temperature gauge and throwing logs onto a fire every half hour. So the teams have a lot of time to chat to the public. Quite frankly it’s a welcome distraction, so people can approach the guy nearest a smoker and ask questions. However, as far as tasting goes, the meat cooked during the competition is only for the judges!

    “On Monday, 17 June, several pitmasters, some competitors – if they survived the competition – and I, will be doing live demos and tasting sessions and the public is invited to attend these and even try their hand at mixing a few spice and sauce recipes.”

    Prizes include R20 000 in cash as well as product hampers and the winners walk away with points towards their SAFSMA league standings, which crowns best BBQ smokers in South Africa at the end of the year.

    For more information on BraaiBoy, visit: https://braaiboy.co.za/

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    Feature image: Supplied