MasterChef Asia premieres with three Singaporean contestants

The first edition of MasterChef Asia will feature contestants from eight Asian countries. Contestants from Singapore also share with Imagine TV Network about how being a home cook is different from being a MasterChef contestant.

Words by Imagine TV Network

The premiere of MasterChef Asia will be broadcast simultaneously to 15 Asia Pacific countries and Michele Schofield, Senior Vice President of Programming and Marketing at A+E Networks Asia, shares this is the first time a pan-Asian version of the popular television program has been produced. In the past, each version of MasterChef is produced with a country-specific audience in mind and contestants are from one country.

Image credit: Lifetime Asia

This time, 15 contestants from eight Asian countries were selected and except for an episode filmed at Hong Kong Disneyland, all other episodes were either filmed inside the MasterChef kitchen in Singapore or at the city's iconic locations.

MasterChef Asia will also headline several challenges centered around Asian cuisines. Asia being a non-homogeneous region, the food team considered the diverse spices and ingredients used in different Asian cuisines as they were stocking the pantry. The judges for the Asian edition of the cooking competition program will be restaurateur Susur Lee, three-Michelin-starred chef Bruno Ménard and Singapore-born Audra Morrice, the third-place winner of MasterChef Australia.

Image credit: Lifetime Asia

"Going into the competition, I knew that Asian food was one of my weaknesses," Lennard Yeong says, sharing that he is intending to be a professional chef." I looked at all the dishes that the judges would expect of me to know as a Singaporean... I was basically trying to put out fires that I knew were coming, so my focus was on all the regional Asian cuisines that I was very unfamiliar with."

A lawyer by training, Woo Wai Leong hopes to make the transition into culinary and says the challenges on the show reveal whether someone has the necessary characteristics to succeed. Time restrictions are hard but he remarks that the lack of familiarity is an aspect the audience do not see the contestants grapple with. "Being in unfamiliar surroundings, with unfamiliar equipment, ingredients and kitchen layouts, not to mention being away from the comforts of home, are definitely factors that make the experience tougher..."

Asked how cooking on MasterChef Asia was different, Sandrian Tan, a homemaker, quips that if her dish falls short of expectations, she would not be sent out of the house or be rejected by her family. She shares that her most memorable experience was the team challenge. "The synergy that exist[s] between us is something I never thought could happen between strangers that just barely knew each other."

Image credit: Lifetime Asia

"Sometimes you go into the pantry expecting a certain ingredient to be there, but it's not," Yeong recalls. Both Yeong and Tan agree that the mystery box challenge is the hardest challenge in the show. "I always thought that mystery box was the hardest challenge... basically you [are] paralyzed by thinking too much until the clock starts ticking," Tan shares.

As an engineer, Yeong thought it would be an advantage in the kitchen but he admits that he over analyzed certain challenges and ended up misinterpreting them. "I realized that it is actually a double edged sword... I was trying to analyze everything the judges were saying and not going with my gut feel."

"This competition is really about taking home cooking and elevating it to the next level," Schofield says. She lists examples of contestants elegantly presenting the flavors of street food, infusing lobster bisque with curry flavors and deconstructing classic Asian desserts as illustrations of how the contestants brought creativity in fulfilling the food challenges.

MasterChef Asia premieres on Lifetime (StarHub Channel 514) from every Thursday (from tonight) at 9pm.



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