Durban man outcooks allcomers to be first SA MasterChef

2012-07-25 00:00

DURBAN IT specialist Deena Naidoo is the first ever winner of MasterChef South Africa and with it R8 million worth of prizes — the richest prize in reality television.

Naidoo, 45, battled through a nail- biting three-stage final to beat Cape Town’s Sue-Ann Allen to the title. On November 1 he will throw open the doors of his restaurant, the MondoVino restaurant at Tsogo Sun’s Sun Square hotel at Montecasino in Johannesburg.

Naidoo and Allen had to create a starter from a selection of vegetables in a mystery box, a main course with a South African flavour in the invention test and a deconstructed milk tart in the pressure test for dessert.

Handing over the reins of what was his restaurant for 18 months, MasterChef judge, Benny Masekwameng, said he had no regrets, adding: “I loved every dish that you made from your first audition. When Pete [Goffe-Wood] walked away with your butter chicken, we all felt that it was the kind of dish that would get you into the top three. It will be a pleasure to relinquish all the reins to you and I’m looking forward to seeing the dishes you will create for the South African public.”

Graham Wood of Tsogo Sun said that while the company was moving into uncharted territory in allowing an amateur chef to take over one of its restaurants, it was likely to be a “hell of a ride”. “We will be reopening the restaurant on November 1 with a new concept which will showcase Deena’s food and what he can deliver to the public,” he added.

In addition to winning the two-year contract to run the MondoVino restaurant, Naidoo walked away with R250 000 in cash from headline sponsors Robertsons; a new Hyndai Elantra 1.6 GLS; a seven-day culinary experience in Italy and an Italian cookery course, courtesy of Woolworths; a year’s supply of Nederburg Winemasters Reserve for his restaurant, a customised sommelier course and one-on-one master classes with Nederburg’s cellarmaster.

Speaking at the press conference he said the toughest challenge had been making the passion fruit gateau because of the emotional strain he felt. “In this competition you have to switch from an emotional low to an emotional high. All about triggers in challenge. I was ready to go home because I had failed myself, when chef Andrew [Atkinson] said ‘was I ready to go home?’, it was my trigger,” he added.

Allen, meanwhile, said she would do more chef training and would be doing private chefing. “My holiday is over and I want to cook, my road doesn’t end here, it’s only just beginning,” she added.

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