Whether it’s hosting a music awards ceremony or a dating series, to even a celebrity gossip variety show and serving as the fashion police, all eyes and ears are on controversial local television and radio personality Majota Kambule, popularly known as Phat Joe. Now he’s adding another presenting gig to his CV – which is starting to look as bulky as an old-timey phonebook. His talkshow with a modern spin, Cheeky Palate, premieres on Friday, 9 October on 1Magic (DStv 103) at 19:00.

In each episode, Joe invites multiple celeb guests to “his” lush house for a three-course meal, drinks and a series of conversations. They spend the hour discussing topical issues, from news headlines to their careers. While they chat the night away, acclaimed chef and author Lentswe Bhengu (you’ll recognise him as the co-host on The Great South African Bake Off) is in the kitchen whipping up their dinner.

“Cheeky Palate is fun, and it can be serious as well, because we deliberate on heavy subject matters,” says Joe. “The discussions can get heated as the guests sometimes talk over each other, they argue, they try to listen to each other and most of all, they exchange ideas until we reach a conclusion. The show has a clear format, but for the most part, it’s unscripted. At times, I’m not curating the conversation and the guests are asking each other questions. We bring South Africans from all walks of life, with different perspectives and beliefs, to one dinner table, which is exciting,” adds the host.

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Cooking up a storm

A typical episode of Cheeky Palate starts off with Joe introducing the topic of the day. He provides more insight about his guests and then comes the fun part: when he breaks down the dishes of the day with Chef Lentswe. “Soon after, I run upstairs to change into my formal attire and the guests slowly arrive, receive their welcome drinks and mingle,” says Joe.

But the real party begins when Joe returns downstairs. “Some of the guests I’m meeting for the first time, and others I know already. We all walk into the dining room and have the starter,” explains Joe.

In the first season, Joe and Chef Lentswe’s guests include radio and television presenter Penny Lebyane, entrepreneur-turned-reality-television-star Shauwn Mkhize, musician Moonchild Sanelly and businesswoman Johanna Mukoki. “There are also lesser-known cult figures like writers, bankers and psychologists. Depending on the topic, we have the who’s who of the industry,” adds Joe.

The icing on the cake

Cheeky Palate was conceptualised 2 years ago, and filming started in August this year after the country moved to level 2 of lockdown.

“Basetsana Kumalo [who’s the producer] asked me to host the show, and I was more than happy to lend my abilities to a concept that I instantly fell in love with,” says Joe.

“My background is in radio, where I’d have laid-back discussions, play music and lightly unpack the news. I like that people will see me in a different light, where I bring current affairs and political issues to the table. It’s an opportunity for me to showcase another side of me on television,” adds the show host, who began his radio career in 1995 on Radio Bop and later hosted his comedy talkshow The Phat Joe Show from 1999-2005.

All hail the chef

Chef Lentswe is bringing out the big guns on Cheeky Palate, from mouth-watering steaks to scrumptious seafood and “he makes a delicious beef shin too,” adds Joe. “I love my desserts and Chef Lentswe makes a good panna cotta in one of the episodes. He is high-end and intricate with his cooking. I enjoyed his magwinya [fried dough bread] that he paired with a rooibos custard.”

Aside from Chef Lentswe, some of Joe’s favourite chefs are Siba Mtongana, Jenny Morris and Coco Reinarhz. Joe also knows his way in the kitchen, adding that “I absolutely love to cook. I make homemade pizzas from scratch. I also make my own pasta sauces. Being in the kitchen is a way that I not only relax, but to wine and dine my family and do something special for them. During the lockdown, I cooked every other day. In a typical week, I’ll cook once or twice because I’m always on the road.”

But with Joe focussed on his guests for the show, he needed to bring another big talent to the kitchen. Now we’ll be watching every episode to see whether Chef Lentswe’s creations can stop the chat in its tracks and turn fierce debates into yum hums.

Watch Cheeky S1 from Friday, 9 October on 1Magic (DStv 103) at 19:00

How to watch Cheeky Palate online

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