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My thrill of the grill at Nando’s grilling showdown

Nandos was celebrating 25 years in Botswana PIC: MOMPATI TLHANKANE
The people in my social circle never really give me a chance to show my culinary skills while it comes to grilling or braaing meat either over wood or charcoal. “Wena monna o batla go tshuba nama” they would say.

Consequently, I would end up being relegated to some minor duties like cleaning the braai stand or marinating the meat.  This week, when Nando’s restaurant invited the media for a grilling challenge as part of their 25 years anniversary, I grabbed the chance, stepped up from the backbench and undertook the daunting grilling challenge.

As many media houses were represented, the Nando’s management who came from as far as South Africa decided to mix and divide us into five groups.

Members of my team didn’t know I had little experience when it came to grilling, so that was my cue. Nando’s hosted the event at African Mall in Gaborone because it was the same place where they opened their doors in 1993.

They spent the day on the manhunt for the best chicken grillers in the Botswana media. They wanted some snaps and to taste the scribes’ chicken.

But first, the grill masters of Nando’s had to take us through a quick lecture before we fired up our gills (sorry grills). I was in the first group and because this was a competition, I knew it was not a barbecue lifestyle session with my friends at neither Phindane in Mogoditshane nor Bee 6 in Mochudi.

This was Nando’s I had to grill. We had two full chickens each for the challenge. My co-griller degrilled the griller, ensuring it’s clean, while I set the temperature to a required state. Nando’s has been selling good chicken in Botswana for the past 25 years and this competition was about celebrating the people who make that chicken by grilling a good one myself so I had to be calm and collected.

As I took out the chicken from the oven and laid it on the warm griller, I could

actually experience what the business is all about. I marinated the chicken with three brushes as required. I kept turning it over to avoid the skin from sticking to the grill.  I wanted a fiery, fresh, flame-grilled chicken, cooked with style like these Nando’s enthusiasts who drag us to the restaurant every time we come across some money.

According to the instructor on the day, the secret is to have a golden brown chicken, cooked evenly.  “Four minutes it should be done. The longer you keep it, the dry it becomes. You have to keep it juicy inside,” he highlighted.

After all the sides were cooked evenly, I cut the full chicken into four pieces and put it back on the grill. I applied the hot sauce to it and everything was ready as I transferred it to the plate.

During the brief grilling challenge, I realised that it is more than just savouring the aromas and flavours of the chicken, but it is also about enjoying good times.

I could overhear the devilish rival grilling media groups shouting, posting and transmitting the thrill of the grill to the digital world. My job was done and it was up to the judges.

“We judge each piece on texture, flavour, tenderness, and a number of other key qualities,” one of the judges told us.

Our group scooped position two in the end after all the sweat and the yelling our team instructor, Ruth had to put us through.  The Media Grilling Challenge did more than boost Nando’s brand and media coverage, but it gave us a glimpse of what the people behind the brand do. I now have a passion for grilling and given a chicken and charcoal, I can deliver the best taste.




DPP Botswana

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