Ousted MasterChef Singapore Contestant On His “Absurdly Sweet” Dish Chef Bjorn Shen Spat Out: “It Was A Tragic Moment For Me”
Uni student Thomas Chong was one of two contestants eliminated from last Sunday’s MasterChef Singapore.
If you’re a cooking competition show aficionado, you should know that the second the judges spit out a contestant’s dish, it’s not a good sign: that home cook’s contesting days are pretty much numbered. (Serving raw food is another fast-pass to exile-ville.)
It’s a common sight, no big deal, nothing to go gaga about — but in the context of MasterChef Singapore, it’s a big hot-fudging deal.
Let’s face it, MasterChef Singapore, now in its third season, isn’t as combative and confrontational as its American or Canadian counterparts. The show clearly has a no-a**hole rule. The contestants are nice. Hell, even the judges –– Chefs Audra Morrice, Damian D’Silva and Bjorn Shen — are supremely affable.
The closest we have to a judge losing his shiznit was Chef Damian admonishing a Season 2 challenger’s French cuisine, but that’s nothing compared to the ego-pulverising, confidence-decimating, life-deflating put-downs (more like anti-praises) dished out by Alvin Leung (MasterChef Canada) or Joe Bastianich (MasterChef US). MasterChef Singapore contestants, you’re so lucky.
I like my MasterChef packed with conflict, drama and shouting, and MasterChef Singapore is kinda low on those elements. But hey, that’s just me. That’s not to say nothing exciting ever happens; once in a while, something disquieting does come along where everyone goes, “Whoa, did that just happen?”
That ‘ooh-ahhh’ moment happened last Sunday to university student Thomas Chong who failed to dazzle the judges in the Mystery Box challenge with his Goat’s milk poached pawns.
The judges’ reactions were priceless — confused and angry. As if someone dropped a silent-but-deadly fart and they didn’t know which direction it came from.
An unimpressed Chef Bjorn spat the food out. "Thomas, I really wish you had tasted the elements together,” he said. “It is absurdly sweet. We want to be surprised; we want to learn something new. But there is a bit of a line. For me, this dish has really crossed the line.”
An equally disappointed Chef Damian said: “Desserts are supposed to be sweet; this is sweeter than sweet — this is just not something I want to eat.” Chef Audra added: “We still have other dishes to taste, so keep your fingers crossed.”
Sadly, miracles were short on supply: Thomas and fellow contestant, singer Eka, didn’t make the cut.
To be honest, as food-spitting go, I’ve seen far worse (go look it up on YouTube) and Bjorn’s is entry-level at best. Sure, it’s mild for some folks, but by MasterChef Singapore standards, it’s shocking — shocking enough to be included in the promo spot currently making rounds on Instagram.
It’s one thing to be ousted from the show, but another to be reminded constantly on social media of one’s culinary dreams going up in flames. Can you imagine the mental anguish that would cause? Thomas, however, seems very Zen about it when 8days.sg checked up on him via e-mail.
“The world we live in revolves around social media in one way or another, as it is a lucrative way to gain engagement and financial benefits,” the business student wrote back. “I knew from day one that whatever the outcome of the competition, it would be put out there [on social media] as this is part and parcel of taking part in MasterChef Singapore.
"Opinions about my presence in the competition may vary amongst people, but at the end of the day, the only opinions that matter are from the people that truly care.”
8 DAYS: You put up a good effort. How far did you think you would go in the competition?
THOMAS CHONG: When I met the contestants during the top 18 round, I got to understand that some of the contestants were very knowledgeable and experienced in cooking. At that point in time, all I hoped for was to make it to the team challenge, as I wanted to be cooking with them to get a better understanding of their strengths and weakness. Also, team challenges are fun!
Watching Chef Bjorn spit out your dish isn’t a pretty sight. What was running in your mind when he did that?
After watching so many MasterChef seasons from all around the world, I knew that when a judge spits out your food, there’s almost a 99% chance of being eliminated. So I knew that I was pretty much out of the competition, but I was just hoping that a miracle would happen.
Whose reactions devastated you the most?
I guess it would be Chef Bjorn, as for a chef who likes to experiment with different flavour profiles, him spitting out my food meant that it really wasn’t good.
You were seen holding back your tears. Was there stuff caught on camera that didn’t make it to the version we saw that night?
It was a tragic moment for me, as all I could think about was that my efforts in preparation for the competition had went down the drain. I still had not gotten the chance to apply any of the recipes that I’ve practiced, nor shown who I really was through cooking. I guess it was too late to think about all that when my name was called out. Other than that, it was a blur. All I could hear were the loud gasps from the other contestants.
Who was the last person who gave you a thumbs-down for your cooking?
When I was in my teenage years, I was overweight and I would keep reducing the salt and oil content in my food, so as to ensure that I was eating healthily. This one time, when I cooked aglio olio for lunch, I took it to the other extreme by under-seasoning the pasta, which resulted in my sister complaining that my pasta was bland.
Your girlfriend, Genevieve Lee, was the Season 1 runner-up. How soon did she find out about your elimination?
I called her after the day had ended and filming was over.
What was her reaction?
She was sad, not because I was eliminated, but because I was sad. She encouraged me to be more forward-looking, and asked me if I enjoyed the experience because that’s more important. To which I replied, “ I enjoyed every moment of it”.
Where did you and Genevieve first meet?
We met four years ago on an online dating platform, Coffee Meets Bagel.
Did you start cooking before or after you met Genevieve?
My understanding of food was very limited before meeting Genevieve. She was the one who widened my perspective on food and introduced me to different ingredients and methods of cooking. From then on, I grew to love and understand food, and we would spend our weekends in the kitchen cooking from morning till evening, just because we enjoy it.
What tips did she give you about the competition and did that inside info help in any way?
She didn’t really give me “inside” tips. She basically shared with me how cool the set and filming equipment were, and how much produce there was in the pantry. She also reminded me about the simple things — to not under/overcook the protein and to always taste the food as you cook.
If you could do Episode 2 all over again, how different would you do it?
I guess what I would do differently is to not overthink the challenges as they are as straightforward as it seems.
What’s next for you?
It’s back to school for me. However, in the meantime, I am working to build my career in food photography as a side hustle.
Who would you like to see in the grand finale?
I would say the one person that I want to see in the finale is Nares. We were roommates during the competition, we shared our knowledge and we also talked about our aspirations and dreams. I would be so happy if he gets into the finals.
Watch the Episode 2 of MasterChef Singapore Season 3 here: