Last Sunday’s MasterChef Singapore semi-finals saw the double elimination of sales and marketing events director Trish Yee and real estate agent Zephyr Eng, paving the way for engineering student Derek Cheong and private tutor Leon Lim to vie for the crown.
Zephyr, 30, was shown the door first following an intense restaurant takeover challenge — with Chef Willin Low running the pass — at Michelin-starred Iggy’s, where she failed to impress the judges with her rendition of Otah Bolo Bun and Aka Ebi.
In the penultimate cook-off, Trish, 31, flamed out in the Basket Swap challenge (but there wasn’t really a swap…sneaky), with her Scampi Done Two-Way dish, with pumpkin-infused chicken broth.
Even though their MasterChef journey has ended, and the thought of cooking under pressure might trigger anxieties, Trish and Zephyr say they won’t hesitate to give the competition another shot, if given the chance.
“When I returned to the MasterChef kitchen for the grand finale, I could not hold back my tears,” Trish tells 8days. “Every second in the kitchen brought back the memories of my last cook and how I failed to make it into the grand finale. However, joining MasterChef was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I would be happy to be part of it again.”
“We all have our own ways of dealing with stress, pressure and learning to bounce back from setbacks quickly,” adds Zephyr. “Quite often, it’s how we choose to react to a situation or a disappointment that defines who we are. Resilience is so important these days, not just in the Masterchef competition but in everyday life.”
Here, the ousted contestants look back at their MasterChef stint and share their future projects.
8 DAYS: The restaurant takeover challenge at Iggy’s was extremely stressful to watch. Has that experience changed the way you look at a fine-dining restaurant?
TRISH: Definitely! I used to wonder why fine-dining restaurant menus are priced at such a premium when the portions are smaller than the ones served in casual restaurants. After the kitchen takeover experience, I realised that the process of preparing fine-dining dishes is super tedious and although the dish comes in smaller portions, there are many different intricate elements on that plate. It is definitely not easy to do plated dishes as you have to consider the consistency and precision of plating and each plate has to look perfect. If you are slow in plating, the guests will end up getting cold food. It is really stressful!
ZEPHYR: It certainly has given me a newfound respect for all the hours of practice, attention to detail and intricacies that chefs at fine-dining restaurants have to produce day after day, night after night. I have always been on the receiving end of such gloriously delicious food, which I can now fully appreciate all the sweat and tears that have gone into perfecting the craft. I am grateful for the experience of being placed in that situation where I got to feel what it’s to be in their shoes.
How would you do things differently if you were to do Iggy’s challenge again?
TRISH: I would probably spend more time studying the recipe and see how I could adapt some of the cooking methods to go with what would work best for me or the dish. For example, I probably would have pan seared the threadfin directly instead of using sous vide to cook the fish first as per the recipe. The fish ended up overcooked and it was so flaky that the fish started to break apart.
ZEPHYR: I would have infused more depth of flavour into the panna cotta. Having had no experience creating any of these dishes before, quite often I had to go with my gut instincts on how it should be done. Looking back, without having ever had the opportunity to work in a fine-dining setting, I do not think I could have done anything different from how I had already tried. Sometimes I think it’s better to go with my guts rather than religiously following the recipe. Recipes are more often just a guide.
What new skills or dishes did you pick up from the show?
TRISH: I learnt how to make was Chef Mandy’s Black Forest dessert. I went into the competition not knowing how to make entremets and I surprised myself when I made such an intricate dessert during that challenge.
ZEPHYR: Working at Iggy’s taught me how to make springy noodles from squid, intricate techniques that I never thought of before. I also learned how to make ice cream from scratch, which I had never done before!
Leon and Derek are in the finale. Which other two contestants do you think would make an exciting face/off?
TRISH: I think anyone who is in the finale would make an exciting face off. But I would like to see Nor and Zephyr. The type of cuisine they make can be somewhat similar in terms of the cooking techniques and ingredients. It would be interesting to see what they would have created in the grand finale.
ZEPHYR: [Dentist] Tan Oon Yong and [private tutor] Vasunthara Ramasamy. I was surprised by Oon’s early exit [in Episode 3] as he has a repertoire of skills ranging from fine-dining to desserts. Vasun [who was sent home in Episode 5] impressed me with her understanding of ingredients and knowing how to bring together various flavours.
What are your favourite moments on MasterChef Singapore?
TRISH: My favourite moments are in Episode 3 when I won the national dish challenge. It is one of my proudest moments in the show! To bring up a dish to the judges and have them crowned my Laksa Bisque with Crispy Bee Hoon as the new national dish was unreal. I can never forget when Chef Damian said that my dish is better than laksa! Another favourite moment: winning the Zero-Food Waste challenge. The victory was extra meaningful as I was cooking with the values which were passed down to me from my Grandma.
ZEPHYR: It would be the moment the MasterChef doors open as we all march in to appear in front of the judges in anticipation of the next challenge. Each time the doors open, it’s like a new day, a new challenge, full of hope, opportunity and excitement. There is never a dull moment for me whenever I’m in that setting.
What’s next for you?
TRISH: I am working to run some cooking classes under my culinary events company Dopen Kitchen. I am also selling my homemade chilli sauces, Korean kimchi and banchan on the D’open Kitchen website. Other than that, I am considering [mass producing] my laksa paste which I used for my winning dish for the National dish challenge.
ZEPHYR: I am working tirelessly to revamp and elevate my mother-in-law's Peranakan cafe-boutique, Rumah Bebe. My MasterChef journey has been one of self-discovery, pushing myself to limits and pressure I had never experienced. It has also sharpened my cooking skills, resilience and resolve to elevate Rumah Bebe’s food onto the world stage and showcase what Singapore has to offer with this uniquely Singaporean cuisine. I want Rumah Bebe to make a lasting impact in everyone's tastebuds.
I also hope to be an inspiration for all working mothers out there who have to juggle working and trying to be the best mother to their children. I want to show them that they can still pursue their dreams and not be tied down to life’s circumstances. I hope to inspire and champion resilience and respect to everyone who has watched me on the program.
Even though my MasterChef journey has ended, it’s only the beginning of my own pursuit of culinary excellence! Catch me on Instagram at @zephyrskitchenette and Rumah Bebe at @rumahbebe. We are located at 113 East Coast Road. See you there!
Catch the MasterChef Singapore finale on Sun (Apr 25), meWATCH and Channel 5, 9.30pm.