Jan Braai is fires up a World Record at the V&A Waterfront

What's the one thing that all South Africans have in common?

Jan Braai, from Braai4Heritage, is at the V&A Waterfront amphitheatre attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest, timed braai. How do I know this? There are plumes of smoke billowing over Victoria Wharf shopping arcade and I'm following the scent of marinated spare ribs with an expectant nose. He must ensure that he uses at least five different kinds of food, that he does not receive any help and that I get to eat all of it.

Jan is in good spirits, despite the fact that he has a camera trained on him to make sure he doesn't wander off during the next thirty hours. Whilst most men buy me flowers to win my affection, Jan insists that I sit next to the fire, so that I will carry the smell right back to my office.

CTMag: What food are you cooking with there, Jan?

Jan: "Boerewors, beef, vegetarian patties, chicken, ribs and lamb chops from the Karoo. The food has to be on the fire at all times, so before I take one rack off, I'll put the next one on."

CTMag: Exactly how much meat does a tong master need for a 30 hour braai?

Jan: "Around 300 kilograms."

CTMag: Wow! Who'll be eating it all?

Jan: "We've employed 20 official braai eaters. We've been informed by the Guinness judge that all the meat must be presented in a way that can be eaten, meaning it cannot be raw or burnt. After the world record attempt, we intend to pack the remainder of the meat into boxes for local charities."

CTMag: Do you get breaks?

Jan: "You get a five minute break for every hour completed, but I'm planning on accruing a few of these breaks, so that I can pop off for a massage."

CTMag: How many hours are you going for?

Jan: "I'm hoping to beat the current record of 28 hours, with 30 hours. We will be finished at around 15:00 tomorrow."

CTMag: How do you plan to stay awake through the night? Red Bull, perhaps?

Jan: "Castle Lager, not too much..."

CTMag: Just in case you wander off and disappoint your YouTube fans...

Jan: "I'll try and be responsible and I won't drive home afterwards."

CTMag: Can you eat any of this food, or do you have to watch other people chowing down?

Jan: "I can eat like everyone else, but I won't be eating from every grill. If I do that, I'll fall over and won't be able to complete the challenge."

CTMag: What country currently holds the world record?

Jan: "It's currently held by a German chef. Whereas he attempted the record for a publicity stunt, I'm doing it to raise awareness."

CTMag: What does it take to become the ultimate tong master?

Jan: "I think that's something that comes naturally to South Africans."

CTMag: What made you choose to attempt this world record?

Jan: "It's not currently held by South Africa and it should be."

CTMag: Why is it important that the record be held in South Africa?

Jan: "We are the world leaders in braai. It's a call to action for 15 million, fellow South Africans to braai on National Braai Day, next Friday."

CTMag: What significance does the braai have in South Africa?

Jan: "What I love about South Africa is its diverse and fascinating heritage. But it's important to focus on the commonalities, also. Where ever you live, whatever race, whatever religion, whatever language you speak, the braai is the one thing that every South African has in common. Show me one South African who hasn't tended or gathered around a fire in the past twelve months. You might not know anything about a person you meet for the first time, but you'll know for a fact that they've been to a braai."

CTMag: What's the oddest thing you've ever had to braai?

Jan: "There is a common misconception that braais only involve meat. One of the six items on the grill today is vegetarian patties. It's quite obvious that vegetables go with meat; however, some South African's might find this strange."

CTMag: When I went to my first braai, I was told that, under no circumstances, could I bring any burgers with me. What's the difference between a braai and a barbecue?

Jan: "There are certain items that are tougher to merge with other items, so you can't braai burgers with chops and steak. To braai is definitely more healthy than to barbecue and it uses real wood. It's not just about cooking the food, but gathering around it. A barbecue is an outdoor kitchen, but a braai is a way of life."

CTMag: What will you do to celebrate if you break the record?

Jan: "I'll drink some Castle Lager and eat some meat."

CTMag: Do you have a message for South Africa's braaiing public?

Jan: "Gather around the fire and braai, on 24th September, 2010."

The question is: did he do it?

Yes! Jan broke the world record, braaing for an incedible 28 hours 30 minutes. Congratulations for bringing our heritage back home where it belongs, Jan. Surely, this calls for a celebration of the tong and wood kind.

By Lisa Nevitt

Still confused? Be sure to read: What to Bring to a Braai. Don't forget to fire up a meaty storm on National Braai Day

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