FACE OFF: Deena Naidoo and Sue-Ann Allen vie for the title of MasterChef.

Sameer Naik

And then there were two. On Tuesday Deena Naidoo and Sue-Ann Allen will go head to head for the title of South Africa’s first Masterchef.

For the duo, the journey on Masterchef has been difficult but rewarding. Naidoo and Allen beat hundreds of Masterchef contestants to reach the finale of the reality cooking show.

Joburg’s hope of a winner quickly faded when Masterchef contestant Manisha Naidu was eliminated this week. Now its either Cape Town or Durban who will earn bragging rights as SA’s first Masterchef.

This week the Saturday Star spoke to Naidoo and Allen to find out how the Masterchef experience has changed their lives.

Allen, a lighting designer from Woodstock, Cape Town, said she was “in shock” after reaching the final of the reality cooking show.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling knowing I have made it to the final of Masterchef,” said Allen.

“I entered with the aim to reach the final, so I’m really pleased.”

But the 30-year-old knows she has tough competition for the prestigious title. Allen and Naidoo will be scrutinised by leading culinary experts Andrew Atkinson, Benny Masekwameng and Pete Goffe-Wood.

“Deena is without a doubt the best cook on Masterchef; he has shown it throughout the competition,” she said. “I’m very pleased that I will be up against him. So should I win, I will know I truly deserve it.”

Allen has shared many memorable moments on the show, which she says she will treasure for the rest of her life.

“It’s very tricky to point out one specific moment. However, our 12-hour cooking challenge stands out in my mind. It really tested my character.”

Her worst moment was when Ilse Fourie was eliminated.

“We had become best friends, so I was really gutted.”

Two of Allen’s favourite dishes were the seared salmon that she cooked and the lamb she prepared in the 12-hour cooking challenge.

Being away from her family for two months was just one of the challenges Allen faced while competing.

“My family really missed me and I missed them as well.

“My dog even missed me. He sat in front of the TV whenever Masterchef was on!”

So what does the future hold for Allen?

She says she hopes to have her own cooking show and is also keen on publishing a few cookbooks.

“I want to interact with the public and inspire them the way I have been inspired.”

Deena Naidoo, who has been touted as the favourite to win Masterchef, knows he’s got a challenge on his hands.

“If I am to beat Sue-Ann, I know I will have to cook better than I ever have,” said Naidoo.

“I’m up against someone who is at her very best right now. Sue-Ann is a total foodie and is passionate, so it won’t be easy.”

It’s no surprise that Naidoo has made it to the final, however.

The 45-year-old IT specialist from Durban has impressed judges from the word go with his mouth-watering curries and heavenly desserts.

“I came to the competition prepared,” said Naidoo.

“I sat up all night reading books on cooking and widening my knowledge of cooking – the reason being that I wanted to be prepared for any possible challenge.”

His hard work and determination truly showed when Naidoo pulled himself through a pressure test in one of the episodes.

“I was down and out, and felt emotionally drained.

“On top of that I had to make a cake and it wasn’t an easy challenge,” he said.

“It only hit me when one of the chefs asked me what I was planning to do if I was to be eliminated from the show.

“I just couldn’t handle the thought and so I gave it my all.”

Naidoo too has enjoyed many memorable moments on the show, but the one that stands out for the father of two was when his food was acknowledged by famous international chef Michel Roux.

Naidoo’s biggest critic is his wife Cathy, he says.

“Wow, my wife is very difficult to please,” laughed Deena.

Asked what he thought of his wife’s cooking, Naidoo laughs and says he prefers not to answer the question. “All I will say is that it is an experience.”

His favourite foods are eastern cuisine, especially Japanese.

“The food is made with the utmost discipline and is highly respected and that why I love it.”

Naidoo says he has two bold dreams for his future after Masterchef.

“First, I hope to inspire others to cook. Second, I want to acknowledge my love for food in every way I can.”

The winner of Masterchef SA will receive R250 000 from Robertsons, a Hyundai Elantra 1.6 GLS, a 7-day culinary experience in Italy and an Italian cookery course, a year’s supply of Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve wines and the chance to run their own Southern Sun restaurant at Sun Square Montecasino.