Justin Bonello is a South African filmmaker, chef and television personality best known for starring in his own cooking and travel show, Cooked.
He is also the host of the SABC3 reality competition The Ultimate Braai Master.
As a presenter and producer of international hit television series Cooked, Getaway To Africa and Exploring The Vine, Justin has combined his three favourite things – Southern Africa, food and friends – into his daily work.
As his own boss Justin likes that he has no one to report to, but as the boss at Cooked In Africa film production company he says every day is scary. Just as scary as encountering crocodiles and sharks in the Zambezi River, or an emergency plane landing in Mozambique.
The best part of the job though, is the travel. “I’ve seen more sunrises and sunsets than anyone I know, and I’ve had some amazing experiences,” says Justin.
Once such experience was being nuzzled by wild horses in Australia while filming Getaway To Africa. “I can only compare it to swimming with dolphins… that pure connection with wild animals,” he says.
As a child Justin was fortunate enough to enjoy long lazy summer holidays fishing on the banks of the Breede River on the Southern Cape coast or at a very special place on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape.
While his love for the untamed beauty of South Africa was being shaped and moulded so too was his appetite for good, wholesome, down-to-earth uncomplicated food.
With Justin Bonello – Motivational Sustainability earliest kitchen memories dating back to his grandmother teaching him to make pancakes, to this day Justin will tell you he is not a chef, but a cook – “an average Joe with a passion for life, love, food and my friends.”
He’s the guy messing about with the braai, burning the fingers on one hand with a beer in the other; or in the kitchen fearlessly experimenting with flavours and ingredients, playing with his food.
It might not always work, but as Justin says “without exception we all have flops from time to time but like life, food is about trying new things, making new friends and most of all, having fun. It’s all part of the process and when it works the rewards are sweet… or savoury!”
In the first season of Cooked, Justin invited viewers to join him and 30 friends on an epic 30-day road trip of a lifetime from Cape Town to the Wild Coast and back again.
The idea was to get back to the basics of food and friendship, with meals of local ingredients and produce slowly cooked over open fires and enjoyed without the hassle of utensils while soaking up the beauty of South Africa.
“The more you’re out there playing the more you understand the simple truths of food and life and how everything is interconnected,” says Bonello.
“And when you add into this the mix the beauty of travel, of getting out there, of searching for those elements that make you tick, of making friends and memories, life is truly grand.”
In season two, the concept was continued with weekend breaks and getaways, and in season three Justin took his crew even further, all the way to Mozambique.
Along the way we have seen him make a roast in a tree, a pizza in a dustbin, chicken in a pit oven and steaks on a spade.
These are just some of the crazier cooking techniques employed by Justin Bonello – Motivational Sustainability and compiled in the subsequent book, Cooked In Africa, already a best seller.
And they work just as well as the more conventional recipes for traditional and quintessentially South African dishes like boboties, vetkoek and koeksusters, or those with the quirky Bonello touch, like wors cannelloni or breakfast in an enamel mug.