SA’s very first MasterChef winner, Deena Naidoo, will be opening a restaurant that will carry a name of his choosing, along with a menu that reflects his unique culinary inspirations and concepts.

The restaurant, located in the heart of Montecasino’s vibrant outdoor piazza, will be called Aarya (pronounced Aaa-ri-ya) and is scheduled to officially open on Monday, 5 November amid the fanfare and excitement that the MasterChef series created throughout its run on DStv earlier this year.

The man who endeared himself to millions of viewers all over South Africa for his humility and passion for food, Naidoo decided to name the restaurant in honour of his 10-year-old daughter – the apple of his eye – who in turn was given the name for its Sanskrit meaning, which is noble, kind, honourable, dear, and favourable, and is considered to be a respectful way of addressing women. “It took my wife Kathy and I some time to come up with a name for our first daughter, who remained nameless for several months after she was born as we pondered the perfect name for her.”

Naidoo’s excitement is building as he anticipates the fulfilment of a long-time dream. He says, “Aarya is the culmination of a harmonious two-year partnership that will offer the perfect combination of Tsogo Sun’s 40 years of experience in delivering top restaurant and food & beverage concepts to South Africans all over the country and my passion for food. It promises to be a wonderful experience for our diners, staff, and for myself. This is a partnership that offers me my dreams while allowing me to stay true to my first love – my family – and providing the backup and support of one of the country’s most experienced hospitality companies. It’s an extremely humbling experience.”

Throughout MasterChef, Naidoo was keen to dispel any suggestions that his cuisine was strictly Indian. He is a proudly South African chef and Aarya’s menu will reflect this. “Our menu draws from all the diverse South African cuisines. It will reflect the South African nation and what the MasterChef competition was all about, which was bringing people from diverse cultures and backgrounds together. Through this experience, I learnt so much about South Africa and our multicultural people. I’ve never been so proud to be South African. MasterChef was an amazing education and I aim to reflect my experiences in my menu.”

Naidoo has an extensive knowledge of spices, which will clearly be seen and tasted in the dishes on the menu. “I want to break my personal stereotype that I associate with the Indian food experience. Throughout MasterChef, I proved that I’m not the curry king and that my food reflects the South African palate, in all its diversity and multicultural influences. The new world is defined by spice, and the dishes on my menu are strongly spice and flavour-orientated. All Aarya’s dishes are close to my heart and to my philosophy of highlighting core flavours and using ingredients in moderation.”

An imposing and tasteful photo montage in the form of black and white photos of Naidoo and the other MasterChef contestants will have a place of honour in the restaurant, making it a ‘journey wall’ that showcases all the best moments and memories of the first season of the reality TV programme.

The Aarya experience is one that is being eagerly anticipated by many South Africans, not least because of its prime position at the SunSquare Montecasino Hotel in the pulsating Montecasino precinct. Graham Wood, managing director of Tsogo Sun - hotels, says, “Montecasino is about great experiences and we believe that this restaurant will be a highlight for many visitors. In fact, Aarya is a testament to Deena’s passion for food and his skills, combined with our knowledge and expertise.”

To follow Naidoo’s journey in his dream to establish a restaurant, go to