WHEN Nelson Mandela Bay mum of two Susanna Peterseil settled in to watch her favourite cooking contest on DStv every afternoon, she never dreamed she would one day get to cook on the show… much less win it.
But entering on a whim a few months ago after being egged on by her Austrian husband Werner, owner of the Paxton Hotel on the PE beachfront, ended in triumph for the Summerstrand mum of two today.
Susanna was named the overall winner from her group on hugely popular German cooking programme “Küchenschlacht”, screened Mondays to Fridays and watched by millions of fans.
“Küchenschlacht is loosely translated as ‘kitchen battle’, explained Susanna, who is originally from Zurich, in Switzerland, but has spent the last 20 years in South Africa.
“Six contestants are introduced at the start of each week. They cook various recipes they have chosen for the judges, who are all Michelin-rated chefs from Europe. Every day one person is eliminated and by the end of the week an overall winner is chosen.”
The show is aimed at amateur cooks and draws contestants from all over Europe – and now also Africa. “The only condition is they must be fluent in German.”
Susanna sent off her application to the producers in March and was “delighted” to get a final acceptance e-mail a few weeks later. She flew to Germany for filming in Hamburg at the beginning of September. Werner’s mother, who lives in the city of Linz, in Austria, was allowed to be a studio audience guest for all five recordings. The show was screened in Europe and also on the German channel (443) on DStv in South Africa this week.
Susanna has her hands full with two children, son Michael, 13, and daughter Jamie, eight. She is a regular volunteer at their school, Summerwood Primary, and was instrumental in starting a soccer team for its pupils four years ago. This “huge soccer fan” took every opportunity to punt Port Elizabeth whenever interviewed on the show, including sharing how well the city fared in its hosting of eight of the games in the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Her special mix of South African-Swiss recipes, fine-tuned by cooking the dishes “more than a few times for Werner and the kids”, ultimately swayed the judges.
“We only got 35 minutes to cook our chosen dishes every day. On the first day we had to do a main course, a starter on the second, a main again on the third, a main and pudding on the fourth and, finally, another main and pudding on the fifth day.
“I never expected to win and was surprised even to make it to the final,” she chuckled. “I actually thought the contestant I cooked against at the end stood a better chance, but it was just his bad luck that the skin of the fish we had to cook stuck to the pan while mine ended up perfectly crispy – to be honest quite by accident!”
There were other mishaps too, like the time she dropped her dessert on the floor in the fourth show. “I just got on with it and quickly plated another one.” She said the biggest highlight, besides winning, was meeting show host and Austrian celebrity chef Johann Lafer.
“It was stressful at times but at the same time so much fun. There was a wonderful camaraderie among the contestants.”
Susanna’s prize is a another trip to Hamburg where she and Werner will enjoy a special weekend and VIP dinner on Lafer’s other show, “Lafer, Lichter, Lecker”.
To see Susanna cook visit http://kuechenschlacht.zdf.de. But first, scroll down below for her recipe for warm cucumber soup with salmon bites! Also get your copy of Weekend Post on Saturday October 13 in which she shares another of the favourite family recipes she prepared for the competition: a dish called Zürcher Geschnetzeltes which is made with small bits of veal (or chicken) cooked in a creamy sauce.
Warm cucumber soup with salmon bites
2 large cucumbers; 250ml sour cream; fresh chives and dill; chopped; 1 litre vegetable stock; salt for seasoning; 2 Tbsp olive oil; 40ml flour; 4 slices of white bread; 4 thin slices of smoked salmon or trout; 1 lemon; 1 small onion, chopped
Peel the cucumbers and remove the seeds, then cut them into small pieces. Fry them in the olive oil and dust with the flour. Add the vegetable stock immediately and stir, then simmer for 15 min. Use a mixer to blend the soup, add the sour cream and blend until smooth and the top is frothy. Season with salt, chives and dill and serve immediately.
Next, toast the white bread, arrange the trout or salmon on it, sprinkle with lemon juice and decorate with some chopped onion.