Zuraida Jardine loves croissants. This I found out by chance. I had just finished breakfast – which was a buttered croissant – when I called her for our interview about her new show Clover’s Little Big Cook Off, SABC 3 on Saturdays at 6pm.
I somehow let it slip that I just finished a croissant and she oohed and told me that her husband Josh Lindberg (actor and director) had been indulging her with chocolate croissants.
“I feel so guilty and even going for extra gym sessions is not alleviating the guilt,” she laughed.
It’s fitting, of course, for us to talk about food, because that’s what the show she presents is all about: two members of a family, one young, one old, working together and bonding over food. Winners of each episode will then take part in three semi-final episodes, with the winners of those legs standing a chance to win prizes worth R1 million in the finale.
Zuraida ably hosts the show, with chefs Coco Reinarhz and Martin Kobald acting as judges.
You’ve been away from TV for a while, why pick Little Big Cook Off as your return to TV?
I felt that it’s very important for me to be part of a show that resonates with me. A show I know that I was going to love being on. My last show was Life’s a Journey on SABC 3. It was a beautiful show I love. I believe in picking projects that I know will have an impact. Not just so I remain on TV. That is almost always career suicide. So Little Big Cook Off is that show I was waiting for.
Cooking is huge in South Africa. It’s part of many of our cultures, so the concept of grouping family members against other families appealed to me even more.
What is it about food shows that make them so much fun to watch?
The world goes into phases of enjoying certain things like the reality show format, which has given us the Kardashians, those Housewives and now the world is fascinated by cooking shows.
What’s awesome about |reality cooking competition shows is that they are about |real people. Real everyday |people and that always appeals to others.
What makes your show different from the rest?
It’s a unique concept and I’m so proud it comes from South Africa. It combines cooking with family, two things very close to my heart. It works. It’s like a mash-up of MasterChef and Junior MasterChef. I love that it gets family members to work together and to realise that they need each other.
Beyond the cooking, it’s a bonding session for them. You get that rare emotion in the show, especially in challenges where one has to cook and the other has to watch. Those side glances, longing looks and the unspoken support. It’s beautiful to watch.
And South Africa seems to have a penchant for them lately – more than five are either in production or on air already…
Ja! People love cooking shows, because it resonates with them. They can easily see themselves being on them and trying out new recipes. My daughter loves the show. I recorded the first episode of the show for her and when she watched it, she wanted to watch it over and over. That’s how much she enjoyed it. I’ve also had feedback from adults who love it and that’s why it works.
So, do you cook?
I do! I come from a traditional Malay family and I’ve been cooking from a young age. Food is there with every major celebration or family gathering and you have to sample a bit of everything. I love it.
Have you learnt any tips from the contenders?
Oh, completely. There are little “mistakes” I’ve been doing while cooking and I’ve had to remedy them. From cutting an onion – it helps to put it in the fridge beforehand and cutting it (at) a different angle – to making milk tart. Plus I’ve learnt a lot from judges Coco and Martin. They are incredible to work with and have no pretensions about food.
Your favourite meal?
I’m all about healthy food now, but I love curry. I’m a sucker for spicy food. The spicier, the better. I can’t stomach bland food. Breyani is my vice. The myriad flavours are always amazing, and for me it’s one of the best dishes, ever.
This article was published on the 8 June 2014 issue of the Sunday Tribune SMtv magazine