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CAPE Town’s Sue-Ann Allen and fellow finalist Deena Naidoo have spent the past three months keeping SA’s greatest TV mystery a secret – the winner of the inaugural MasterChef South Africa reality show.
And their 16 fellow contestants have known too, and will only be able to speak freely for the first time after the grand finalé is screened tonight in a special 90-minute broadcast.
In the past weeks, at OR Tambo and Cape Town international airports, Capetonians Nicholas and Maya Williams, aged 12 and nine, managed to corner Ilse Fourie and Khaya Silingile – but neither gave a hint about who won when filming was completed at the end of March.
“Technically, they weren’t even allowed to tell their families,” said M-Net’s Ingrid Engelbrecht. “They had very watertight contracts. There’s still a few hours to go, but they’ve been absolutely brilliant at keeping it secret.”
The show is owned by M-Net and was shot by Curious Pictures. They began by auditioning around 4 000 hopefuls in December, then began filming in January, primarily at the MasterChef kitchen at Nederburg wine estate near Paarl.
They held a “huge” wrap party when filming finished, and have since been sitting tight while the episodes have been screened every Tuesday.
Tonight, all 18 contestants will reunite at the MondoVino restaurant at Tsogo Sun’s MonteCasino complex in Joburg – the restaurant that the winner will “own” for two years as part of his or her R8 million prize.
Along with a Hyundai car, R250 000 from Robertsons spices, a seven-day culinary tour of Italy and cooking course, a year’s supply of Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve wines, this is the prize that either Allen or Naidoo will be allowed to celebrate winning in public for the first time after 9pm tonight.
“It’s difficult to compare to something like Idols. But both our top two candidates have worked extremely, extremely hard. The winner will make a huge success of the restaurant,” Engelbrecht predicted. The bulk of the R8m prize comprises the anticipated profits from “owning” the restaurant.
In the meantime, Engelbrecht reported, a number of the other unsuccessful contestants have already reaped rewards, such as Lungi – her full name is Lungile Nhlanhla – who has been appointed as food editor for the famous Drum magazine.
“Berdina (Schurink) started her own café and bakery in Pretoria, which is apparently doing exceptionally well, and Guy Clark was offered a job at Madame Zingara,” Engelbrecht said.
Whether the secret Allen has been keeping proves to be a wonderful one, or whether she won the wooden spoon, Allen has promised to keep fans cooking with her own range of cookbooks.