After weeks of grueling cook-offs and culinary challenges, one home cook emerged as Singapore’s first ever MasterChef: 30-year-old Zander Ng. Also known as Risotto Boy, a nickname he gained for his inclination towards Italian cuisine.
In last night’s season one finale of the Singapore edition of the cooking reality show, Ng went head to head with 20-year-old Genevieve Lee, a wunderkind herself in concocting innovative dishes. The two were each challenged to come up with a five-course banquet feast that revolved around Asian flavors within two-and-a-half-hours. Despite screwing up his dessert dish — an ondeh ondeh pannacotta that was a gooey mess — judges Damian D’Silva, Audra Morrice and Bjorn Shen were bowled over by the rest of Ng’s offerings, including a very appetizing fettuccine carbonara with Szechuan peppercorns.
“This is a dream come true!” said Ng, who’s planning to take some time off and travel the world. Obsessed with both Italian and local cuisine, he started getting into cooking since his early university days as a means to feed himself as a cash-strapped student. The passion burgeoned into hosting weekly dinner parties and conducting cooking lessons for friends.
“This dream has been 10 years in the making and now I finally feel like I’ve received the validation to pursue my passion in the culinary world. I’ve learned to embrace the unknown, thrive in the madness that descended on the contestants in each episode and learned to channel the pressure.”
The inaugural winner of MasterChef Singapore walked away with a boatload of prizes on top of the S$10,000 cash purse, including a book publishing deal, $2,000 Cold Storage supermarket shopping vouchers, and kitchen appliances from KitchenAid, Ariston and more. But perhaps the best prize is scoring three-month internships in two of the judges’ acclaimed restaurants — Shen’s Middle Eastern joint Artichoke and D’Silva’s heritage destination Folklore.
“I look forward to the internships with Chef Bjorn and Chef Damian, spending time in a professional kitchen and learning from the best in each of their specific crafts”, Ng enthused.
MasterChef Singapore producers have yet to announce whether there’ll be a second season, but we sure are glad that the cooking show didn’t just cater to Mandarin-speaking audiences like it was initially planned to be.