MasterChef Singapore Contestant, Who Impressed Judges With Elevated Malay Cuisine, Reacts To Uncle Roger’s Singapore Food Diss: “Negative People Need Drama Like Oxygen”
‘Rockin’ Deliveryman’ Ilya Nur Fadhly has yet to hear from Chef Gaggan Anand about his job offer.
Since day one, we’ve had our eyes on food delivery rider Ilya Nur Fadhly as a frontrunner in MasterChef Singapore.
Week after week, the 36-year-old ‘Rockin’ Deliveryman’ rarely disappointed the judges — Chefs Damian D’Silva, Audra Morris, and Bjorn Shen — with his culinary deftness. On Ilya’s Satay Lilit Stuffed Squid, Chef Bjorn raved, “This packs a punch, an absolute riot of flavours in my mouth right now!”
The baseball-capped home-cook won top dish twice — first, in Episode 3’s ‘Food Scraps’ challenge with his Chwee Kueh with Beef, and again, in Episode 8’s ‘Family Favourites’ challenge with his Asam Pedas with Red Snapper.
The latter dish left such an impression on guest judge Chef Gaggan Anand that he made Ilya an offer he couldn’t refuse. “What if I told you to take off the apron and join me in the kitchen today?” Chef Gaggan asked. “So, do you want to be MasterChef or do you want to become a chef in my kitchen?”
“Let me get this first, then I join you,” Ilya responded, grinning from ear to ear.
Alas, Ilya didn’t make it that far: he flamed out in the ‘Crab Heats’ challenge (despite having the advantage of using either canned or fresh crab meat) and was sent packing.
“I don’t like eating crab,” he said. “ I don’t like preparing them. The ‘advantage’ turned into a disadvantage. I was overthinking my decisions and that was a recipe for disaster.”
Ilya might have missed out on the MasterChef title, but he had the next best thing: Chef Bjorn’s glowing commendation. “In my opinion, no one in Singapore has elevated Malay cuisine to the same calibre that you have done,” said the Artichoke chef-owner.
And that’s always Chef Gaggan’s job offer to fall back on, right? Here, Ilya tells 8days.sg via e-mail more about his MasterChef Singapore experience and the next chapter in his culinary journey.
8 DAYS: Your Asam Pedas with Red Snapper blew Chef Gaggan Anand’s mind and he offered you a job on the spot! Tell us: Did you follow-up on his offer?
ILYA NUR FADHLY: To land a job with the chef behind Asia’s Best Restaurant is no mean feat, but that’s a secondary goal. I came here to be MasterChef Singapore, first and foremost. I dropped him a DM on Instagram, spammed stickers on his Stories, and even e-mailed his team a job application when they were recruiting. Radio silence.
Do you think he’ll allow you to wear your cap in his kitchen?
Normally, I’d bun up my hair when I cook outside the show. He has a mini-man-bun, too. No issues if caps are not allowed.
The crab challenge really set you back. How differently would you do the crab dishes if you were to do it again?
For the second heat, I’d probably use the canned ones since it’s faster. It’s my own damn fault for underestimating how they would taste like.
What are your favourite MasterChef Singapore moments that TV viewers didn’t get to see?
It had to be the audition at VZUG. First time cooking in front of a camera in an amazing kitchen. I loved every minute there. Also, the bonding time that most of us had off camera, during mealtimes, and while waiting for our turns to be interviewed. We bonded really tightly. Most of us, at least.
What lessons did you learn about yourself during your time with MasterChef Singapore?
I never, ever knew what I was good at, to be able to make a living whilst being happy. I thought I was okay at some tasks, above average at others, incompetent at some. [I] never had a career in the [F&B] industry up until this point, and I’ve been doing a lot of things, from being a docent to a Centre Manager to an education consultant to a delivery rider. Coming out of MasterChef Singapore has given me a clearer picture of what I want to do.
If you had made it to the final, who would you love to face off?
I’d love to go against [car salesman] Nares [Nareskanna] or [undergrad] Thomas [Chong]. Viewers didn't see what we did off-camera. But to me, these two guys were my main contenders.
Before leaving the MasterChef kitchen, Chef Bjorn said: “In my opinion, no one in Singapore has elevated Malay cuisine to the same calibre that you have done.” Are you going to use that quote for your online food business? Or have you done that already?
At the moment, I’m just selling a Halal version of Bak Chang, so they are not exactly elevated Malay cuisine but for sure, my next adventure will have not just his quote, but probably an autotuned version of Bjorn rapping it. For the record, I really believe that there’s more work to be done, on my part at least, to elevate Malay cuisine. So although it’s really flattering, I’m also humbled and excited at what the future might bring.
Uncle Roger recently said Singapore food is “a weird, less good version of” Malaysian food. Care to weigh in on the topic? What local dish would you cook to prove him wrong?
Everyone has their own opinion. As long as they believe that what they’re fighting for is the right thing, then they believe everyone else is wrong, and everyone is a lesser version of themselves. Negative people need drama like oxygen. Gotta stay positive while they suffocate. My drama stays on the plate. Ilya does Ilya. Uncle does Roger. I won’t do anything specific just to prove him wrong, though.
Watch Episode 8 of MasterChef Singapore Season 3 here: