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Out of the frying pan...

... and into the green. See how decorated chef Bertus Basson transforms struggling restaurants with his Midas touch on In Die Sop
Thu, Jun 10, 2021

South Africa has its own Gordon Ramsay, albeit one with a much more agreeable personality. If you haven't watched In Die Sop yet, you're missing out on the most underrated Afrikaans show on television.

In Die Sop, meaning 'in the soup', is an Afrikaans idiom used when someone or something is in trouble. In the show, Bertus Basson visits restaurants in dire straits and they are given a looks, books and recipe makeover. All in the name of getting more bums on seats.

In June, the In Die Sop team visit Wellington, Stanford, Saldanha and Witsand to guide restaurant owners on a new way to success. Errieda du Toit, food expert and producer of the show, says the show is profoundly moving because of the humanity of the stories.

"People are proud, and to admit you need help is hard," she says.

"To ask for help is not a desperate deed – it's brave. People show you how hard they are willing to work and how much they would love to succeed. They don't simply give up," says Errieda.

It has always been a harsh industry, but you can double the trouble in a pandemic and still not come close to what most people in the restaurant industry are dealing with. In Die Sop deals with the people behind these restaurants, throwing it all in the ring to survive and eventually succeed.

What I love about In Die Sop is that no one is humiliated for the sake of entertainment. Bertus and his team go in with all their expertise, years of built-up knowledge and their hearts on their sleeves to help in any way they can.

The restaurant owners are sometimes sceptical, set in their ways, and unwilling to part, at first, with their rituals – the angle of a table, the stance of a counter, the way they have always made this or that recipe. They are helped, coaxed even, gently, and never forced to part with an idea or routine that makes them feel safe.

But – and this is where it gets interesting – in the end, every restaurant, no matter how unwilling to cooperate, is better off than before.

I have worked in many fine-dining kitchens in my life and worked on both menus, costing, recipes and the works. I would love it if the team could go back in the second season (here's hoping there is one!) to take a look at what the restaurateurs kept doing, what they changed since, and if they did make more money.

tagged! asked Errieda du Toit some foodie questions:

What would your favourite plate of food consist of?

It's all about simplicity, because life is complicated enough. Except for Christmas, when tables groan under the weight of all the festive food, I am happy with three good things on my plate, but it must reflect where I find myself – in other words, I want food from the region.

What do you consider to be the five most iconic South African ingredients?

Corn flour and Karoo lamb. Buttermilk rusks are not ingredients, but they are part of every South African ritual. Wine, especially South African pinotage. When it comes to spices, I am torn between coriander and cinnamon. I can't imagine boerewors without coriander, but nothing consoles like cinnamon.

What are the new food trends this winter?

Local is in, and not just local but hyperlocal – to support the small businesses in your direct vicinity like people who deliver vegetables to your front door or the local bakery. We also crave old family favourites or comfort food like spaghetti bolognese or milk food in times of uncertainty.

There is also a revival in the use of canned and pickled food. We don't want to go to the shops every day and we are looking for new ways to prepare meals with a tin of fish. There is also a trend toward more plant-based diets, which we increasingly recognise as an alternative. South Africans are meat-eaters, but now people often eat meat only three times a week, and they tend to use cheaper cuts. In other words, still meat, but less of it and less expensive options.

If you had to have a restaurant, what would feature consistently on the menu?

There would always be bread and butter on the menu. It is excellent to offer someone a wonderful piece of bread to say: "Welcome to my table!"

  • Catch In Die Sop on kykNET (DStv channel 144), Wednesdays at 8pm