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We Talked to Leanne van den Berg

The Family Girl behind the Stove.

by Louw Mulder

Leanne van den BergThrough the television screen, and more specifically, M-Net’s My Kitchen Rules South Africa, we all got to meet the two ladies from Bloemfontein, Liz and Leanne. Last week saw them baking for the High Tea Challenge, after progressing to the Top 5 of the competition, cooking off against OG & G. Being fortunate enough to be part of the people’s choice for this round, where we saw Liz and Leanne leave the competition, I had the chance to catch up with Leanne van den Berg, whom, will never forget this journey on MKR.

Behind the chef is a real, Afrikaans girl, full of family and moral values. Married to Labour and Corporate Attorney, Jacques van den Berg for a decade next April, they are raising their two princesses, Carmia (8), and Milan (6). “The most important influence in our house is our faith in our Heavenly Father” Leanne said, smiling when she refers to her family. “Our kids have to grow up in confidence so that they can be capable to stand up for themselves, to chase their dreams and not to compromise on what life throws at them.”

Milan and Carmia van den BergBeing part of a reality TV series, especially where you are required to be away from home for lengthy periods, may have a huge impact on a tight-knit family like the Van Den Bergs, especially if you have to miss your youngest daughter’s 6th birthday. “It was very hard on my little girls to go up to three weeks without seeing me”, she says: “But Jacques was wonderful, and even learnt how to do their hair.”

Her family is everything to her. She tells somewhat flamboyantly how Jacques proposed to her 3 months after they bumped into each other over a bottle of Zappa, when the Springboks cried victorious over the English that day. The tails and stories she tells, create this perfect family. Like daddy making French toast on Sunday nights when mommy bath the kids, weekends away with the grandparents, and not forgetting bragging about Carmia singing in the Bloemfontein se Kinderkoor. But digging deeper, everything was not just moonlight and roses for Jacques and Leanne’s family…

Leanne's FamilyIn 2017, Leanne found out that they were expecting their third one, and needless to say with a family-orientated girl like Leanne, this was excitement beyond belief. Due to complications, she lost her little one only eight weeks into her pregnancy. “I never realised how dangerous a ectopic could be”, she told me courageously. “The whole ordeal was very hard on us, and it was very difficult to tell the girls. Jacques spoke to them when I was in surgery. It is very traumatic to lose a baby, and even more difficult to deal with it, but it made our family stronger. We needed each other, we dried each other’s tears, and took our strength from prayer.”

It was then when Leanne’s face sparkled up: “I just heard this week that I am pregnant with a little boy.” It was as if the hurt in her eyes of just a second ago, was replaced with the recent news of this miracle that has just overwrote the bad hand dealt last year. “It’s amazing how God opens a door when another one closes” she said: ‘The funny thing is, that I lost my baby last year on the 27th of May, and this little bundle of love is expected to come around the same day in May next year. This is so special, and the emotions will probably explain the tears in the next few episodes”, she says laughing.

Leanne and LizEven though we are a few weeks away from knowing who the winners of the first My Kitchen Rules South Africa will be, the journey for Leanne will never be one to forget. She explained the rollercoaster ride with excitement. “I found it hard in the beginning where I had to read bad and mean criticism from the MKR fans on social media, especially when I was referred to as a horrible human being. It was Jacques who got me through it, with his positive attitude.”

The Instant Restaurant is what will bring back the sweetest memories of her journey on MKR. She is in particular very proud of her Gemsbok Fillet, and deep fried poached egg, which set the pace as first cookers of the inaugural series in SA. “There were so many beautiful memories of my childhood, parents and families linked to the food we prepared, and it was all done with love.”

And that is exactly how I can summarise the person behind My Kitchen Rules SA’s Leanne van den Berg. Everything is done with passion and love, growing from the roots within her family. From a husband that had to deal with a new Windpomp in their roof as part of Liz and Leanne’s Instant Restaurant, to two loved little daughters, who are starting to become mini chefs in their own right!

“My advice for people out there, is that if it feels right, there are no time constraints. Don’t wait, grow with each other through the difficult times, and through the sunshine times, because it is just there where the love and bond between you and your family are built on. Laugh together, send your kids to Ouma and Oupa, and as husband and wife, spend some time alone.”

The final of My Kitchen Rules South Africa will be broadcast on Sunday 10 December on M-Net. Who will winn the Million Rand? MKR airs every Sunday at 18:00.

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