ASIAN TREATS

Written by root. Posted in IN PERSON

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Published on November 01, 2015 with No Comments

Asia now has its first ever MasterChef and the judges speak to MUHIBAH about the excitement of the first season.

 

MasterChef Asia has certainly created a buzz among foodies and fans of the original series. This regional competitive cooking game show, based on the original British show MasterChef, kickstarted its first season on 3 September, 2015 bringing a unique pan-regional flavour to the screen while keeping to the format of pitting aspiring home cooks from across Asia against each other for the title of the first ever MasterChef Asia winner.

Presiding over the kitchen, and guiding the 15 contestants throughout their kitchen capers, are judges Susur Lee, Bruno Ménard and Audra Morrice. Menard, a three-Michelin-starred chef, was clearly excited to be a part of the show. “Being a MasterChef Asia judge is a new step in my career,” he says. “I am able to show and more importantly, share my expertise and passion for cooking. If I can inspire at least one person to dedicate his or her life to cooking, I will consider it a mission accomplished.”

Fellow judge Audra agrees with Ménard. A MasterChef Australia finalist herself, Audra knows only too well the pressures of being in the competition, but also the excitement of the moment. “It always amazes me that you could give 10 people the same ingredients and you will get 10 different dishes,” she says. For her, cultural differences are what make food exciting. She believes dishes reflect more than just where participants come from. “What they cook also tells me who they are or who they want to be. The back stories they bring to the competition as they cook are for me, incredibly heart-warming.”

For fellow judge Lee, his extensive technical knowledge and expertise in Asian food brings incredible excitement to the table. But he’s also quick to remind contestants that hard work pays off. He says, “It’s important that young chefs know that it’s really hard at the beginning but, if you stick with it, work hard and suck it up, it will eventually pay off.”

As the three walk about the MasterChef Asia set, one can see many similarities to the Australia set. While the restaurant and MasterClass areas are visibly missing, the workstation, the clock and the pantry remains the same, occupying an area of 600sqm. Throughout filming, the judges were clearly there to provide guidance as well as fair and constructive feedback. Ménard comments, “It is important that the contestants understand that as mentors, we will push their skills to the limit so that these home cooks realise they could go further than they thought.”

Indeed, the success of MasterChef has always been the passion and surprises home cooks bring to the table. Unprofessional cooks that prevail, bringing their best to the judges, with the pressure of being under the spotlight of the camera at all times – all these make for a good format and exciting television. “Being in this competition is not something you can specifically train for because you don’t know what you have to create,” Audra explains. Her advice to participants is to have a good understanding of flavours and how different ingredients work together. “When you couple this with flexibility in your thinking, you’ll have your food set up well.”

Episode 4 perhaps best reflected MasterChef’s philosophy. Filmed at Singapore’s famous Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, contestants set up their own stalls cooking three ethnic cuisines: Malay, Chinese and Indian. It is here that the participants had to think hard and outside the box to impress not only the judges, but also the public.

If it were just about the food, MasterChef would have long been TV history. As Ménard pointed out, the competition goes beyond cooking. “It actually is about the sense of national pride each brings to the competition, because they all are representing their respective countries.” That alone, he says, is able to bring about a great range of skills, techniques and flavours since contestants come from diversified backgrounds.

The home cooks participating in the MasterChef Asia Season 1 include one contestant each from China, India, Taiwan and Vietnam; two from Indonesia; and three from Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

 

 

MasterChef Asia airs Thursdays, 9pm (SIN/HK) on Kristal Astro Lifetime channel 709. For more information, visit www.lifetimeasia.com.

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