Say Hello to Justin Bonello – Host of The Ultimate Braai Master
To take our insatiable appetite for adventure and innovation to the next level, we decided to go on the road with The Ultimate Braai Master as one of the official sponsors.
We wanted to get to know our travelling buddies a little better, and first up is the multi-talented author, cook, filmmaker and television producer Justin Bonello.
Justin started cooking at the age of 7, thanks to his grandmother’s influence, and found himself in the film industry as a teenager, thanks to his producer mother. Creativity and dedication run in the family!
After cutting his teeth in the industry, Justin took things to the next level by opening his own production company, Cooked in Africa Films, which has spawned over 20 shows, some of which are multi-award-winning.
Not to mention, as an author, he has written and published several recipe books. Justin sure is one talented (and busy) man.
Justin is also the host of The Ultimate Braai Master, which is now in its sixth season and airs on eTV every Sunday.
Let’s get to know this jack of all trades and master of many a little better…
The Ultimate Braai Master is in its 6th season- why do you think the show resonates with audiences?
When we came up with the concept, it was about celebrating who we are as South Africans through food. At the time, there were lots of TV formats brought in from around the world that tried to shoehorn us into their ethos. We believed that there needed to be a show that was created by South Africans starred South Africans and tapped into the South African psyche. Braai Master does that. Think about it; we call it braai in all 11 official languages…
It’s said that on the show, you might “shout at times”, but that you are a “big softie”, too. Tell us more about that.
I’m in a difficult place in the game as the game master and host. As the game master, my responsibility is to put the contestants under pressure and ultimately create content that keeps viewers coming back for more. But, for those who know me, I’m just the guy next door, and if it weren’t for the fact that Braai Master is a game with a big prize for the ultimate winner – you’d see more of who I am….
How would you describe your approach to cooking food?
Simple. Bold. Accessible.
Why do you think braai culture is so prevalent in SA?
I’ve written a lot about cooking on the open fire, and the simple answer is that fire is hardwired into our DNA. If we look back at ourselves, historically, as a species, fire represents safety from things that go bump in the night, warmth, and allowed us to access food sources that would’ve otherwise been inedible – but the real truth about our braai culture is encapsulated in that Afrikaans word ‘kuier.’ When we gather around a fire, it’s a social event that harks back to us sitting around a tribal fire.
What are some of your go-to favourites for the grill?
As I get older, my food style is reverting to really simple, clean flavours. I love a Karoo chump chop, seasoned with salt and pepper, smoked with rosemary, cold smoked ribeye served with chimichurri – and there’s the old favourite, Thai style sticky chicken wings.
What is your favourite way to use bacon on the braai?
My kids love me to make jaffles. The mates love bacon-wrapped chilli poppers, but I like a stack of maple coated flapjacks served with crispy bacon…
What flavours would you say best complement pork and smoked pork products?
I love what Asian flavours do to pork: soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, Teriyaki, ginger, garlic, chilli…
What is the most prominent mistake people make when it comes to cooking?
They overcomplicate it. Cooks don’t need to compete with chefs, nor do they have to mimic what the latest master chef can do. Food is meant to be social – not a scientific experiment.
Do you have a favourite moment from Ultimate Braai Master?
The best part in every season is watching how South Africans from all walks of life, representative of the Rainbow Nation, gather around a fire and become friends for life.
Lastly – what foodie trend do you never want to see again?
Vegan meat. Why on earth someone thinks that they must try and replicate what meat is like on the fire in a vegetarian form I have no idea. Vegetables are amazing – and why some bright spark thought it important to disguise vegetables is beyond me.