Last Sunday’s MasterChef Singapore saw homemaker Nor Hadayah Mohamad sent to the chopping block, denying her a spot in this week’s semi-finals.
On the show, Nor, 41, had a head start when she won Best Dish — her first — in the coffee-themed Mystery Box challenge with her Mexican beef stew empanadas.
Nor — aka Soul Woman, a nickname coined by judge Audra Morrice after tasting her Gambas al Jillo in episode 2 — scored an advantage in the elimination round: to replicate ‘Not a Bouillabaisse’, a dish made by Chef Ivan Brehm of the Michelin-starred Nouri.
All the contestants had to do was follow Chef Ivan’s recipe. But there was a slight twist to the task: only Nor had the complete recipe while the others had theirs partially redacted.
Sadly, Nor didn’t parlay her leverage into a winning cuisine. Having the full instructions, as it turned out, did her more harm than good; they cramped her style. “I am a creative cook,” Nor tells 8days.sg. “I enjoy cooking using palate memory and instinct. I used recipes mainly as a guide. The end product will be a result of my own iteration of the dish.”
In the end, nerves got the best of her. “[The cook] was really tough,” she said on the show. “Like I just braved the stormy sea.”
If Nor were to do the challenge again, how differently would she have done it? To answer that, she would have to revisit the night of her elimination, which is going to be painful. “Frankly, it is like rekindling a one-sided relationship with an old flame,” she confesses.
8 DAYS: If you were to do it again, how would you make Chef's Ivan's 'Not A Bouillabaisse'?
NOR HADAYAH MOHAMAD: I will just cook it like a traditional Provencal seafood/fish stew by using the Kinmedai's heads and bones for the broth —zero-waste cooking — and add saffron threads, fennel seeds to add depth and flavour. I will then make a Kinmedai Shioyaki (Japanese salt grilled fish), Japanese grilled rice balls and a simple chargrilled marinated Artichokes.
What was your favourite moment on the show?
I had a couple of moments but unfortunately, they were not featured. The most memorable one was the flour challenge [in episode 6]. During judging, Chef Damian said my 'A Beautiful Mess' dessert [a ginger sable Breton, almond cake, feuilletine and chocolate ganache] reminded him of Chef Grant Achatz and that my “Berry Coulis” was one of the most sensual he had ever tasted.
What culinary skills did you pick up from the show?
I picked up the Chinese Wok Smoking technique from [SIA flight attendant] Mitchelle [Chua] in episode 2.
Who would you love to face off in the grand finale?
It is a tough choice between Trish [Yee] or Derek [Cheong]. I will have to say Trish as I truly admire her skills and we worked well together. So it would be an interesting battle between the two belles. Also, I really wish to see a female winner on MasterChef Singapore this time around.
What have you been up to since?
Alhamdulillah, life has been good! I have just recently launched my unique pastry boxes called 'Poetry in Pastry' by Noei.M (me!). I’m also coming up with a Halal Mexican communal and private dining service. Keep a lookout for it on my Instagram! I recently had the opportunity to talk about ‘Air Tangan & Cooking from the Heart’ with [chef and cookbook author] Pamelia Chia on her The Singapore Noodles podcast.
You dream of opening a Halal Mexican eatery. What would you call it?
I will probably call it Noeiszy Bistro.
MasterChef Singapore airs Sun, meWATCH and Channel 5, 9.30pm. The finale is on Apr 25.