After eight weeks of gruelling competition, IT manager Zander Ng emerged victorious in the first MasterChef Singapore.
In the finale on Sunday (Oct 21), the 30-year-old half-Australian, half-Chinese beat culinary student Genevieve Lee, 20, in the final cook-off where they each had to create a five-course Asian-inspired banquet consisting a meat, fish, vegetable, starch, and dessert in two-and-a-half hours.
Ng made a flank steak with Asian chimichurri, pan-seared red snapper with lemongrass beurre blanc, shaved fennel with soy and honey dressing, fettuccine with Sichuan peppercorns, and pandan panna cotta with gula melaka sponge cake. Ng didn’t wow judges Audra Morrice, Bjorn Shen and Damian D’Silva with his dessert, but nailed it with his other dishes.
Besides the $10,000 cash prize, Ng also bagged a $2,000 Cold Storage shopping voucher, a book publishing deal, kitchen appliances from Ariston, Whirlpool, Kitchenaid and Thermomix, and a three-month internship with both D’Silva and Shen at their restaurants Folklore and Artichoke, respectively.
8 DAYS: Congrats on winning the first MasterChef Singapore. What was your first reaction when you were told to create a five-course Asian-inspired banquet?
ZANDER NG: It definitely caught me off-guard. I really thought we would be doing three courses. Because I was rewatching a lot of past MasterChef finales — they are always a three-course meal. So I was like, a three-course meal, I can do it. If I can wrap my head around time management, it’s doable. But when it is a five-course meal, wow, how would the five courses gel together? There were a lot of considerations.
What are your favourite moments from the show?
There are a lot of great moments for sure, but the one that stood out for me would be the restaurant takeover [episode] with Marco Pierre White. Without a doubt, I don’t think any of us were expecting to meet someone of his legendary status. That was awesome. The fact that we were in his kitchen and he was at the helm, was actually really cool. Many times, he was telling us, “You’ll be the sheep, I’ll be the shepherd, so let me guide you.” That was fun. He guided us through it.
You had a tough time with the dessert, though.
We all went through a few [close calls]. To reach this finale, it’s never smooth-sailing. I came close [to being eliminated] definitely on the pressure test with Bjorn [on ep 6]. You know what? Because I was paired with Aaron [Wong] and we won all our team challenges, we didn’t do a lot of the elimination challenges, so I was really fortunate and just those two that I talked about were the ones I was worried about.
Who else would you love to have faced off in the finale?
Of course, it’d have been fun to face off Aaron. Because we were bros throughout the whole season and we were always working together, and we did well. We catch up all the time. It would have been fun to face him.
After MasterChef Singapore, you’re taking some off to travel the world looking for new cuisines and experiences. After that, you’ll be doing internship with Chefs Bjorn and Damian. Which one are you most looking forward to?
Both. They each have such different styles of cooking. Bjorn’s kitchen would be awesome, super-fun, modern Middle-Eastern, that’ll be something maybe I’m more used to in terms of cooking at home for dinner parties. Damian is so well known in Singapore, if I can learn heritage cooking from him that would be invaluable. Because there’s only few people who [can do what he’s doing].
The interview has been edited and condensed.
Catch the first season of MasterChef Singapore on Toggle catch-up.
Photos: MasterChef Singapore