Now that we’ve got everyone warmed up, I think it’s time we spill the beans on our time spent with the host and producer of Ultimate Braai Master (Amoungst many many other things, as you shall learn).
It’s hard not to fan out and tell everyone what a proper guy he is. We’d prefer the honest approach where we talk about the positive AND the unfavourable. The unfortunate and fortunate truth is that Justin is just that, a genuine guy with commendable intentions and a lot of radical stories to tell about the Karoo and the Eastern Cape. The kind of straggler you’d love to meet at a backpackers in Port St. Johns. Or even better, somewhere along the hidden West Coast, lost between the 13-foot waves and the lush well-watered green landscapes, having snoek on a braai of course. Justin Bonello defined by our afternoon in a few words – experienced and humorous with A LOT to say – pure meat, no fluff.
We didn’t have the honor of meeting him in his natural habitat but rather quite the opposite. Nevertheless we claim it, I mean, we even got to share a dop, sticky wings and a fire with the man himself for a fun filled afternoon in the middle of Bryanston. On the ground floor of a fancy restaurant. Outside. On fake grass. We didn’t notice this initially because from the moment we met Justin, to the very end, there was not a single moment of silence. And it was absolutely splendid. So without further a do, we give you – A Braai and an interview with Justin Bonello.
Braai Culture: “So we know where you are now but where did this all start?”
Justin Bonello: *Laughing* (As if he’s never been asked this before)
“I actually started off studying IT, which I practiced for two years. I never saw the light of day, never saw the sun light working behind closed doors in an office. I realized I needed a bit of life. So I got out of there as fast as possible.”
Braai Culture: “That’s interesting (We said this a lot) is this what inspired the passion for outdoors?”
Justin Bonello: “No, it’s a little more complicated than that. If I wind back the clock my mom was actually a producer as I was growing up. So I was on sets at 9 years old during the hayday of afrikaans films produced by the SABC. Roberta Fox, Bryan O’Shaughnessy – I grew up with all of them on sets, an early introduction. From there my mom moved into commercials and I was a runner, so I did everything – crew lunch ,made coffee, and held the grips which gave me a very early introduction and robust up bringing in the film industry. This did not last long as I began to dislike the whole advertising of “fake lifestyles”, I called this “Selling unwanted to the unwashed”. This is when I started studying IT.”
Braai Culture: “From film to IT and back to film then?”
Justin Bonello: “No, I actually went from IT into the clothing industry for my sins, I designed a complex system which helped with costing and stock etc. They say if you want to make a small fortune in the clothing industry, start with a large one. So this didn’t end well for me and by my late 20’s I had lost everything (Car, house, everything). This is when I returned to film as it was the only place I had to go back to in order to rebuild my life. I initially started by catering on sets – worked long days – and evolved from the cooking side to unit management (basically it’s the logistics on set). During this time I remember watching an episode of Jamie Oliver (Naked Chef) where he cooked a meal and invited people off the streets. This was a eureka moment as I realized food should never be like that and this is when I got my first bright idea.”
Braai Culture: “What was this idea and how did you go about putting it into motion?”
Justin Bonello: “I first spoke to everyone I know in the industry and got a group of guys to shoot a pilot for a BBC, SABC and whoever else would have a look at the time. We shot the whole thing in one weekend and I ended up spending a year editing. The BBC were the first to write back and they let me know we had produced a show worthy of a spot and they wanted to buy it. From there I begged, borrowed and stole in order to shoot my first season of Cooked. Now in my old age I’ve got 25-26 shows under my belt – and within each I’ve played various roles.”
At this point we digressed as the conversation naturally flowed deeper into each of projects/shows, we had many questions to ask and Justin had more than a few words to answer for each. The important take aways, at least what we deemed would be most interesting is a few highlights of Justin’s career.
Some of Justin Bonello’s Career Highlights
His initial response was that all his adventures and projects had something different and unique that makes them special but these were the few he mentioned.
A series called The Ride which was extreme historical horse back adventures (Such as the ride of Dick King), 1000km on horse back in 10 days from Durban to Grahamstown. The mongol derby in Mongolia. Around Icelend on Inspiration. Charlie’s Cake Angels series. 5 seasons of Ultimate Braai Master and lastly, 6 seasons of Cooked.
There is so much more we’d love to share about our encounter with Justin Bonello and we shall be doing so in a braai with Justin Bonello part 2. For now you can check out his website and the awesome projects he has going on, such as the The Urban Caracal Project.
To wrap things up and put an end to the fire, we greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet and braai with Justin. We learnt a lot, not necessarily about braai’ing, but rather about a man who has a passion for travel, adventure, South Africa and of course food. It’s not very often you meet someone who lost everything, stuck it to the man and worked his boerewors off to follow his own adventure.