43-year-old Eugene Rangayah of Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, appeared on BBC’s edition of ‘Yes Chef’ working with Michelin starred chefs and went to compete in the show’s final round.
The divorced, single father of a 14yo daughter & 7yo son balances his life among other passions. Rangayah relocated to the United Kingdom in 2008 in what he describes as ‘footballers paradise’ of Cheshire, North West of England.
It seems sleep does not factor too much in his routine as he works at a global banking institution and still finds time to chase his passions – food & acting. He’s appeared in 2 movies and in UK television series.
I hail from Verulam & love a good curry! – Eugene Rangayah
Reminiscing about his early years in Verulam, “I have been an avid cook for most of my life, starting in my late teens. Like most home chefs, I received my initial lessons from watching my parents cook. I lost my dad when I was 16 and turned to my mum for most of my lessons.”
“It started with me being tasked to grind ginger and garlic in the wooden mortar and pestle. My cooking style is experimental but with a great regard for some cultural classics. From family to friends they are his biggest fans!” states Eugene.
Rangayah’s passion for food has him hosting many dinners and weekend luncheons. His signature dish is always a classic curry and beaming with pride he states, “only South Africans know it truly Durban style!”
As an amateur chef, Rangayah enjoys experimenting with fusion food, like Haggis biryani, Kale and paneer curry or the traditional ‘fish and chips’ prepared with a curry-spiced batter. The fantasy of appearing on a foodie show like ‘Masterchef’ or ‘Come Dine With Me’ remained just a dream due to his commitment to work and family.
Dreams do come true
Recalling the beginning of his food journey, “I came across an advert for a new television show. The concept interested me and was around the corner from home at the Cheshire cookery school, I sent the application in and forgot about it. After a few weeks, I received a call from a researcher at the production company.”
We had a chat and she asked me series of questions testing my culinary knowledge. I was then asked to do an audition tape; instead of cooking something for the audition I took viewers through my spice collection.
A month or so later he received a call confirming that he was selected to appear on the show. The competition was open to any food enthusiast with a provision that they did not have a cooking qualification.”
“This call for the new show went out throughout the UK and I was very excited to be selected out of thousands of applicant who entered,” states Rangayah
The production company remained discreet about the exact format of the show and the order of the day. All he knew was that there will be three rounds and the winner for the day in that heat will join the judging Michelin starred chef in a battle with other chefs from the other days of the week for a Friday final.
He was asked about his chosen signature dish that which he had to prepare on the day. Rangayah decided to opt for a Lamb Curry accompanied by basmati rice infused with Kale and spring onions.
“I arrived on a cold Tuesday in April this year, cool, calm & collected but still I felt that the worse that could happen to me. The production crew then revealed the order of the day. The first round would be our specialty dish followed by 2 challenge rounds set by the chef.
Renowned Michelin star Chef Aiden Byrne, owner of award winning restaurants in the North West of England was in charge of the first round.
“We had 45 minutes to prepare our chosen signature dish while the other 3 contestants were crafting classic European dishes, here’s this guy from Verulam preparing a curry!” beamed Eugene.
Whilst preparing his dish the chef came around for a chat and mentioned that he doesn’t know much about curries, which led Rangayah to believe he was going out in the first round, nevertheless he forged ahead.
When it was time for judging Chef Aiden Byrne could not criticize a single aspect of the dish and mentioned that he had learnt a few things from Eugene. Sadly one contestant had to be eliminated but it wasn’t Rangayah. The chef did say that he was not sure if he was a “one trick curry pony!”
The second round was a test on flavour and contestants had to replicate the chef’s dish of ‘Smoked Eel & Green Apple Soup.’ Eugene’s replication of the chef’s dish managed to secure him a place in the final round for the day!
The remaining 2 contestants had been given the same ingredients revealed at the start of the challenge and were given an hour to prepare a dish. It was another lamb dish prepared with anchovies and this secured Eugene’s win for the day and took him to the Friday finals.
The Friday finals of the BBC Yes Chef
Eugene and the other contestants had to replicate the chef’s fish & pasta dish and were judged by 3 Michelin star chefs of which he won. The final round was a pairing of a chef with each contestant; they were instructed to cook 2 dishes in 1 hour with the ingredients being pineapple and langoustine.
Eugene and his chef were extremely challenged it was a case of trying to do too much that which resulted in them losing that round and ultimately the competition.
This itself wasn’t a loss for Eugene. “I have come away with so many valuable lessons & I encountered a master class from Michelin starred chefs. Something which I would have to pay a fortune for & I’ve also made life long friends!”
“My children, family and friends are incredibly proud of me taking up the challenge to be on a TV cooking show and I am sure that it will be a great story for the grandkids someday as well!”
Eugene’s experience on the BBC show ‘Yes Chef’ has catapulted his acting career, which is now gaining momentum and he now has an agent dealing with his publicity and bookings.
The other lesson learnt looking back on the show, “I will never be a couch commentator for any reality TV show that I watch, especially the ones with challenges!”