Chit Chat: Deena Naidoo

2012-07-27 07:51

Now that the show has ended in a nail-biting finale, SA’s first MasterChef, Deena Naidoo, can finally celebrate. Babalwa Shota pried the IT specialist away from adoring fans jostling each other for pictures with their culinary hero, and managed a 20-minute chat

Congratulations on being the first-ever SA MasterChef, Deena. What was it like waking up knowing you have that title?

Thank you so much.

I’m so happy to finally be able to celebrate this victory with the public because it’s been burning up inside me.

Waking up to realise that I was SA’s MasterChef was phenomenal – it was like a dream.

And now that I finally get to celebrate openly, it’s been like a floodgate has opened.

How was the MasterChef journey for you?

It was undoubtedly emotional.

What you saw in the programme was not acting; it was me.

I put heart and soul in the competition.

When I was judged to not have executed a great dish, it hit hard and it showed.

But I believe everything happened for a reason, and those obstacles were there as part of my journey.

How is the family taking this instant fame?

I’m blessed with a family that is not egocentric.

We don’t concern ourselves with material things or keeping up with other people’s opinion of us.

That’s going to help us not to allow the hype to go to our heads.

We live humble lives and understand that we are the flavours of the day right now, and this will end when a new MasterChef is crowned.

We are still grounded people.

Tell us about your family.

They are my primary responsibility and mean everything to me.

I won’t compromise the happiness of my wife Kathy, stepson Naveshan (23), son Theshlin (15) and the apple of my eye, Aarya (10).

All the decisions I make, I make with them.

So are you guys moving to Joburg since one of your prizes is the Tsogo Sun restaurant in Montecasino?

The hotel already has people who understand the mechanics of the hospitality industry.

All I have to do is share my culinary expertise and together with Graham Wood – the managing director of Tsogo Sun hotels – we will rebrand the restaurant and come up with my own stamp for it.

So I don’t have to do a complete relocation.

Since you don’t drink, will the Nederburg sommelier’s course be difficult?

My not drinking is not based on religion.

It’s a personal choice because I don’t really have a palate for alcohol.

And I don’t have to drink a whole bottle at the course, just take the occasional sip.

At the end of the day, my hunger for knowledge beats my reservations about alcohol.

How do you feel about the culinary trip to Italy that’s part of your prize?

I’m very excited about it.

Italy has got so much culinary culture.

They love food.

Much like your typical Indian family, their gatherings centre on food.

What’s it like knowing you’ve made history in South African reality TV?
Everyone has got a purpose in life and we all need to prepare for it.

It’s how you handle it and let it define you that matters.

This was my purpose, and nothing will top this.

This is the legacy I will leave for my children and their children.

Last words?
Everything I have done in my life has been for my wife and children.

This was the most selfish thing I’ve ever had to do, and it paid off.

I’m a simple and humble man.

If I can be an inspiration to others – to show them that any ordinary person can reach their destiny and it’s never too late to dream – then I have served my purpose.

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