MasterChef Singapore Contestant — Who Calls Himself ‘Cockroach’ — Claims He Didn’t Inform Judges About His Injury During Crucial Challenge That Led To Elimination: “It Is Their Loss, Not Mine” - 8 Days Skip to main content

MasterChef Singapore Contestant — Who Calls Himself ‘Cockroach’ — Claims He Didn’t Inform Judges About His Injury During Crucial Challenge That Led To Elimination: “It Is Their Loss, Not Mine”

For better or worse, MasterChef Singapore won’t be the same without La CucaRaj.

MasterChef Singapore Contestant — Who Calls Himself ‘Cockroach’ — Claims He Didn’t Inform Judges About His Injury During Crucial Challenge That Led To Elimination: “It Is Their Loss, Not Mine”

MasterChef Singapore contestant Raj Shagaran Mahalingam, or simply Raj, has survived the judges’ chopping board so many times that he likened his resilience to that of a cockroach — a creature that can ride out any adversity. Shoot, he even coined the nickname La CucaRaj, a play on the Mexican folk song, ‘La Cucaracha’, about a cockroach who cannot walk. (No offense, Raj, but unless Bear Grylls is a celebrity judge, it’s off-putting to taste food that’s connected to an insect that feeds on rubbish and crap. Just saying.)

Sadly, the 58-year-old creative event producer’s roach-like endurance maxed out last Sunday. He was sent packing after failing to replicate guest judge Petrina Loh’s Abalone Mornay Sujebi in the ‘Keeping Up With The Chef’ challenge. (More of that in a bit.)

Throughout the competition, Raj came across as the resident Funny Guy: boisterous, cocky, chatty and pun-loving (Coffeelicious Chocolate Mousse, anyone?), a larger-than-life character whose persona occasionally overshadowed his culinary abilities. So much so that he was either the life of the party or a pain in the ass (ask fellow ousted contestant Gooi Jia Yi).

Was he hamming up for the camera?

No, he's the real deal, Raj tells 8days.sg via e-mail. “I am simply who I am,” he says. “Because I’m not a dull person who enjoys being around boring people or in a boring environment, I could be unconsciously enlivening the atmosphere.”

Here, Raj (who would sometimes refer to himself in the third person) responds to critics of his “distracting” demeanor and reveals the real reason — cue dramatic music — he struggled with the pressure cooker that eventually cost him a spot in the next round.

Mixed reaction: In his appraisal of Raj's Coffeelicious Chocolate Mousse in Episode 5's coffee-themed challenge, Chef Bjorn said, “Where’s the brunch? Where is the coffee? And where is the coffee sauce? I mean apart from that, if this is Junior MasterChef, you will win the whole thing.” 

8 DAYS: You were in the bottom two for two consecutive weeks. And you’re out. How far did you hope you could have gone?

RAJ SHAGARAN MAHALINGAM: I would have sliced, cut, and cooked my way to the top two positions or even win MasterChef Singapore if it hadn't been for the severe fall during the elimination round… Too Legit To Quit!

Have you seen Episode 5? What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you watched it?

No, I haven’t seen Episode 5, but I’m guessing the ratings have dropped and it’s an easy competition for the rest now that I’ve been kicked out of the competition... LOL!

Any regrets likening yourself to a cockroach? Look, from a TV viewer's perspective, it’s rather off-putting to name anything cockroach on a cooking show. Did you think that left a bad taste with the judges even before they tasted your Coffeelicious Chocolate Mousse?

The judges thought it was amusing and catchy, and they could connect it to me because I’d made it through every round of eliminations. Any name that strikes a bell, whether good or terrible, is public relations... La CucaRaj will be remembered by all.

But on the bright side, Chef Bjorn Shen said your dish would win if this were MasterChef Junior. What was your reaction when you first heard it?

Yeah! That's a compliment I'll take because I'm still a winner! Senior or Junior MasterChef… LOL!

In Episode 3, Chef Bjorn said to you: “Do you want to be that funny guy that can’t cook?” The Funny Guy — is that how you wanted to be portrayed on TV? Did the producers encourage you to be this colourful character? Did they tell you to tone it down a bit?

Yes, I recall Chef Damian [D'Silva] swinging by my station and, in a serious tone, asking whether I’m often so loud, happy and colourful? I said, Yes, that's me, and I’m the same Raj whether I’m cooking at home, with friends, or at a meeting with a client. I like to turn up the music and dance as I cook because it makes me happy and helps me burn energy. Isn’t it a fantastic workout for the body, mind, and soul?

Did you think you were lightening up the mood with your persona?

Raj, I am simply who I am. Because I’m not a dull person who enjoys being around boring people or in a boring environment, I could be unconsciously enlivening the atmosphere. Because the MasterChef kitchen is such an exciting place to be — I’m not going to just prepare, serve, or scream for sympathy votes.

Were you aware that some of your fellow contestants found your antics distracting? Jia Yi said so in an interview last week, and Nares said it as well in Episode 5.

I was only being myself and expressing my feelings. If you can’t stand being distracted, go find your own little quiet spot, for this is a competition, and you should anticipate the worst... hello! If I’m a distraction, how are you going to make it in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen if you ever have a chance? I’m a truthful, kind, and considerate person.

Did you get along with them off-camera?

Yes, I did have off-camera conversations with most of them, particularly with my roommate Johnathan Chew, who is a pleasant, polite, honest, supportive and genuinely nice person.

Missed the mark: The dish that dashed Raj's culinary dreams. Chef Petrina Loh said, “So Raj, you know the name of the dish. It’s Abalone Mornay Sujebi. But your Sujebi is missing. That’s a big component. It isn’t just the garnish that’s missing. And the next component is the abalone. Not removing the skirting; to me, that’s a big no-no. And the third main component of the dish — the Mornay has gone totally wrong as well.”

You were in a bit of a painful mess in the ‘Keeping Up with the Chef’ challenge. Seriously, what happened? Was that the first time you used a pressure cooker or did nerves get the better of you?  

So, like a cat with nine lives, I have survived every curved ball, arrow, dart, you name it, thrown at me… but unfortunately, it was my bad fall in the kitchen pantry that led to my exit from the show.  Yup, I didn’t tell the judges and producers that my arm got dislocated from my shoulder for fear of being removed immediately from the show. Instead, I went on quietly and showing no pain or distress to continue in the game.  I managed to complete my task in the challenge to replicate Chef Petrina’s dish. However, she hated my guts for asking too many questions during the cook, well, so I got booted out for being a menace in the kitchen…LOL!!! Well, they lost a great contender in the show. Unfortunately, it is their loss, not mine.

What’s next for you?

Yes, Raj will ascend to greater heights in the field of gastronomic cuisine as a result of his terrible fall in MasterChef.

I hope to one day leverage my MasterChef expertise and put my passion into establishing my own culinary art school, a blend of beautiful food and fine art that will create a ‘Wow’ factor in the world of culinary gastronomy…Yes, dream big!

MasterChef was one of my bucket list items, and now I can cross it off. To the remaining eight contestants, I wish you all the best but hey life sucks when there can only be one winner. I’ll see you guys at the grand finale…So, go get it! Now, sing it yaw’ll… La CucaRaj! La CucaRaj! Over and out! Love, peace and be nice! A cockroach may be tiny, but once inside the house, it is the master.

Watch Episode 5 of MasterChef Singapore Season 3 here:

MasterChef Singapore Season 3 airs Sun, meWATCH and Channel 5, 9.30pm.

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