Episode 3: What’s done, is plated. My experience in the MasterChef Kitchen.
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
This was a massive challenge, of elephantine proportions. I told my mind, “you are in charge today, don’t let any other part of the body tell you otherwise.”
We were split into two teams of 4, @AaronWong - Blue team captain and @NicholasKoh - Red team captain. We were all booted for our first exposure into a commercial kitchen. I was in the Blue team with @ZansNhl, @ShamsydarAni and Captain Aaron. Aaron as a team leader is one of the best I have known.
The draw of the knife left us with Asian ingredients provided by #ColdStorage and an Asian kitchen with huge woks, burners, steamers. The judges explained the rules of the game and briefed us about the #SingaporeSportsSchool. A school, specialised in integrated sports and academic programme for secondary and post-secondary students in Singapore.
We jogged our memory, Asian dishes to feed 200 future Olympians and more importantly to lure them to vote for us!! Some considerations were to choose protein elements that are kids favourites, the meal will need to comprise of a starch and a vegetable dish... after all, they need to be healthy and fit.
I was responsible for the rice and vegetable dish. I thought to myself, Oh the stigma!! just because I am a vegetarian! I decided to hero the vegetable; all dishes don’t have to be meat!! But this was a team challenge. My 40 years of wisdom prevailed. I knew that a team is as strong as its weakest point. If I hero the ordinary, then we will all sail through.
We reached the kitchens, and it was intimidating as hell. The Asian burner and pans looked big enough for a village. The equipment was so huge that if we slipped and fell we would have become an extra ingredient to the dish. The access to the pantry, left us thinking on our feet. Not much to work with but there was so much to do. Sounded simple on paper, but we had to cook to feed 200 kids in just 4 hours! Phew!! A sport of a different kind.
I was crazy excited and started executing the team plan. I ran to the shelves but absolutely did not know where to start. I grabbed a few trays and ran back to the pantry. With no measuring cups that made any sense, I announced to the team that I had started on the rice. I washed and filled the large pans. I added pandan leaves and lemongrass to flavor the rice. I used my grandmom’s trick to measure the water proportions, wash the rice well then add water to measure upto 3/4 of your finger from the level of the rice in the pan. If I can cook now, it was because of her! Remembering, I would call her over the phone ask her for recipes, menu ideas and tips to rectify my disaster in the kitchen.
I carried the 20kg heavy pan with rice and water to the steamer. It was the wrong sized pan!! I ran back to the pan shelf and brought in a few different sizes. I tried fitting a few into the steamer. Bingo!! I got one that was the right size! I transferred the rice water into the correct sized pan. There was no time to spare. I carried, clamped the rice filled tray into the steamer. But these were commercial equipment! I asked Aaron to help me check on the timer to see if it is all good. He set the timer to 20 minutes, a great guy.
This challenge pushed us all closer. I was so happy. I started my vegetable dish. I was chopping the cauliflower, carrots, and beans. Chef @BjornShen walked in with the camera and all. Enquired me of my status. Almost like a flashback, I was reminded of the Cauliflower Sabbich that is on his restaurant menu. As a vegetarian, I found it so hard to get by in Singapore. I love Indian food but I craved for change. Not many restaurants served vegetarian options, most restaurants with just one dish to order and it was very disheartening.
One Sunday a family friend called us to Chef Bjorn’s Artichoke Restaurant. All of us ordered the Cauliflower Sabbich. It remains my favourite. Fast forward to present day, I was standing along with my favourite Chef chopping cauliflower. Grin... I cooked cauliflower, carrots, beans with turmeric root, curry leaves and Chinese five spice for the team challenge.
The day ended with a great service. So many children. It swelled my heart. We flew with wings, and it was a complete sweep. The judges had positive things to say about our dishes including the vegetable dish, and I was so chummed.
It was a landslide win! We hugged each other like there was no tomorrow.
I was acutely aware that I was living my dream. I did not want this to end, ever. The top ten had become the only people I wanted to be with - Sake King Josh, Doctor Vidya, Fearless Nick, Kakak Diana, Uncle Wong, Knife Mastro Sharon, Sambal Queen Shams, Chocolate Boy Zander, and Adorable Gen.
I learnt that many of them had a spelling disorder. I spelt phonetically, and they did too!! I needed to read slowly, so I don’t miss a syllable. I never remember names, I use pneumonic but mostly forget it too. I knew I was different and MasterChef Singapore exposed me to ten people who were exactly like me! It must be the love for food. Who would have guessed that something as diverse as food created the same kind of food-people around the world!!
Blue team was safe, and we were spectators to the elimination, a curry challenge. I was perched safely on the deck watching over.
There are some people who bring out the “motherhood” in you. My husband and son do it effortlessly. Gen manages to do it every time as well. I longed to have a daughter like her. Half my age, she worked her magic and cooked a completely vegetarian curry meal!
People come to me wanting to understand Vegetarian and I would bucket them into categories. After all, I am a marketer! People who want to eat vegetarian but struggle because the vegetarian they have seen or eaten was boring, fried and lacked excitement. Indian vegetarians who have moved countries and wanted to explore world cuisine. People in Singapore who want to eat Indian, but don’t like the spiciness or don’t know what to order or eat, where to start. All this prompted me to start food blogging and thus Kechil Kitchen was born. Back to present day.
I saw how the four were rendering their versions of curry, but @Genevieve Lee rised above the rest in my opinion. She introduced chickpea flour and paneer to Singapore. The amazingly cooked Kale Paneer curry, a side dish of Channa masala, Garlic butter naan and a Mango Lassi drink. I was thrilled. I had a soft corner for her but her ability to take risks just melted me.
I was so insanely proud of her. It is amazing to be young and fearless. I am going to fear-less and show off what I know best. I am so inspired to show off in the next challenge.
While all this was going on in my mind, I was hit with the reality of the elimination. Eliminations are painful not just for the person but the entire family of the #MasterChefSG Kitchen. I yearned for their company, to listen to 10 different takes on everything.
This time it was @NicholasKoh. I think he is one of the most creative cooks I have ever known. To add to it, he is just an amazing individual! Goes by the name #TheUnexpectedChef , he is a bundle of expected fun, laughter, positive vibes, and talent. His wife @SandyHuang is ever so supportive, and it is just a bonus to know her as well! I am very very lucky to have him and his wife as friends. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and that is just one of his numerous admirable qualities. Hugs to him! We all hugged him.
This was the end of Episode 3, until next week when we have to cook a dessert! People who know me know it’s my Achilles heel!!! So keep watching...
#WhatsDoneIsPlated #KechilKitchen #MasterChefSG #TeamSowmiya
Check out my website: www.kechilkitchen.com