Sponsored by Pick n Pay, and supported by Coca-Cola and Renault, the programme will see veteran presenter and gourmet bush cook, Justin Bonello, host 15 teams of two contestants each on a gruelling 52-day extreme-cuisine cooking competition that will include an 8 000km road trip and showcase the beauty, diversity, unique flavours and local delicacies that characterise some of South Africa’s best off-the-beaten track locations.

Says Bronwen Rohland, Pick n Pay’s marketing and sustainability director: “A large part of being South African is about being outdoors with friends and family enjoying a braai, and the Pick n Pay brand has, since its very beginning, been about supporting and celebrating the things that make us unique as South Africans. Partnering with Cooked in Africa Films to find the 'ultimate braai master' speaks directly to who we are as the country’s quintessential South African food retailer, and we’re looking forward to what will undoubtedly be an incredible journey.”

Cooked in Africa has delivered more than 100 hours of programming in the last eight years across various genres to broadcasters as diverse as BBC International, National Geographic, Discovery and local South African broadcasters M-Net, SABC and eTV. The team is excited about the production - which represents the company’s first project in the cooking competition genre.

“Local reality-based TV, combined with converging traditional and new media platforms, has stimulated new sponsor-funded models and provides the South African public with the potential to bring a cross section of local identities together within a shared context,” says executive producer Peter Gird. “We’re especially excited about this property as it represents a hybrid model within the traditional AFP (advertiser-funded programme) structure that is synonymous with local free-to-air broadcasters. Our partnership with SABC3 allows us to showcase an original, home-grown TV series to a broad local viewer base, before extending the programme’s exposure to a global TV audience via our international distributors, Off The Fence.”

The producers launched the competition’s call-for-entries campaign at the beginning of April via print, radio and TV, driving entries to the competition’s online platform, developed by Quirk. Aspirant braai masters must enter online by no later than Monday, 27 April. Short-listed entrants selected from the online entries will be put through their paces at three regional auditions in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg in May, where Bonello, together with Ultimate Braai Master judges, will select the final 15 teams.

Says Bonello, “We’re in the business of original production, and have always prided ourselves on our ability to transform fresh ideas into thought-provoking entertainment for TV that has global appeal, high production value, great stories and social media legs. With our digital and media partners, Quirk, Sunday Times, Metrofm, and SABC3, Ultimate Braai Master has the power to resonate with audiences across all race, age and gender groups, whilst offering a powerful multi-dimensional branding platform – and one that taps positively into the SA psyche – across digital, electronic, print and experiential channels.”

After presenting and producing five seasons of Cooked and four best-selling cook books, Bonello is proud to be creating a local reality TV series that will break the stereotypes that abound when it comes to the braai – including the myth that it’s a territory reserved exclusively for men.

“With a prize package combining R500 000 cash, a new Renault Koleos 4x4, and the title of South Africa’s 'ultimate braai master', the competition is pitched at contestants who can hold their own outside of a kitchen,” he comments. “Teams that get selected to participate in the competition will be expected to occasionally catch their own food and cook to a standard of culinary excellence that will raise the bar on the kinds of meals that can be produced on an open fire. The intention is to reinvent and showcase the best braai-inspired dishes ever seen in a reality TV series.”

Filming will start in July, with the winning team being announced in the final episode of Ultimate Braai Master, which will be screened on SABC3 on 6 December.