• Motivated Masterchef SA finalist Shannon Smuts gets stuck into a healthy-driven passion project, and expounds on life BM (before Masterchef) and AM (after Masterchef).

    I am super open-minded about food and have respectfully eaten everything ever offered to me: from smelly seaweed and crocodile to rat… the list is endless and bizarre. I try to remember that something that’s taboo for me is actually a staple in other countries. But I will admit I really had to wrap my head around the half of a scorpion I ate in Bangkok – I can say unequivocally that I won’t be doing that again!

    I come from restaurant stock – my earliest food memory is the intoxicating aroma of spare ribs from the steakhouse my parents ran in Newcastle. So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I now work in food too. Before MasterChef I worked in magazines as a designer. My life BM was completely different from where I sit now and all I can do is smile. The universe works in mysterious ways.

    Sharing is the biggest ‘thing’ for me about food. Food is almost an emotion – you share it with people, you celebrate with it, you learn with it. Nothing beats breaking bread with someone new and wonderful, in a new land, or a new home, during a new experience.

    Pure Good is the name of my little deli in Cape Town. We serve a wide variety of fresh salads, wraps and sarmies, and offer wholesome alternatives for people wanting a healthy juncture, which is not everyone, so I offer lunchtime favourites too and have a fully stocked ‘naughty corner’ for customers who just need chocolate every now and then.

    Because food security is such an important issue in this country, I buy all my fresh produce from Baphumelele Fountain of Hope farm and work my menu around what the farm can produce.

    MC was just a surreal yet wonderful experience. One minute you’re being flown around, staying in top hotels and enjoying a fridge that brims with every ingredient your little heart could ever want, and next thing you’re whisked back to your old life – bubble burst! I know it sounds like a cliché but I met so many cool people and shared an adventure with them like no other. We will all be friends for years.

    I think my love for travel really shone through when I was in the top 16. It also came through in my cooking. Unfortunately, that was also my downfall in the bread challenge. Damned coconut bread!

    I feel that the health food industry is monopolised – you are forced to pay much more for healthier choices. I prefer to make my less nutritious items more expensive so the healthier ones can be cheaper and shine. My cheapest lunch is The Skinny B!tch salad: lettuce, rocket, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, sprouts and toasted seeds with a low-fat mint yoghurt dressing; big portion for just R25.

    My personal food style is kind of ‘all over the place’. I don’t follow recipes (unless I’m baking, then I’m like a goggle-wearing scientist hell-bent on perfection!) but I hate waste so I guess I’m a bit of a mixer and matcher. I’ll see what’s available in my fridge and knock up something tasty. You should see what I’ve dished up while living with four housemates and having only tuna, tinned mussels, two eggs, a packet of Smash, frozen veggies and a stale loaf of bread – the most divine fishcakes, which I still make today.

    Pure Good, 21 St John’s Street, City Bowl, Cape Town; 021-461-3818