A champion of heritage food , Folklore’s executive chef Damian D’Silva sits on the panel of judges for the recently-aired inaugural MasterChef Singapore to showcase and determine the best interpretations of local cuisine by its contestants.
The MasterChef series was established in several countries such as the USA, Australia and UK. Like these competitions, MasterChef Singapore also sees 18 homecooks dishing out their best through a series of challenges. There will be only one victor in this competition, decided by chef D’Silva and judge Audra Morrice and chef Bjorn Shen.
In the first episode of MasterChef Singapore, eight contestants have been eliminated so far after three challenges – making sambal, fried rice and a dish for a loved one. The cooking competition was filmed over an intense period of two weeks, and even the seasoned chef had a few takeaways from the experience.
Chef D’Silva share his thoughts here, on the competition through the Singaporean lens, the judges and his reflections:
- How do you find the quality of the inaugural MasterChef Singapore contestants?
It’s the first competition, and hopefully not the last. But I would say that I was impressed by a few of the contestants, considering that they are homecooks. We have contestants that would easily hold their place in MasterChef USA, UK and even Australia.
- As a unique gastronomic destination with one of the most diverse culinary heritage and offerings, how do you think MasterChef Singapore can help to promote Singapore’s unique culinary identity?
What better way to showcase Singapore’s multi ethnic diversity then through a show that showcases exactly that? It’s the best way for Singaporeans to watch and understand the changes we are going through within our own food culture. It also encapsulates the dilemma that we as Singaporeans struggle with – who we are. I know, in time there will be Singapore-inspired dishes that will come out of the MasterChef kitchen that will make Singapore proud, ethnic or otherwise.
- Why do you think Singaporeans should take an interest in (and watch) the MasterChef Singapore series?
If we brag about how much a foodie nation we are, then we should be part of an international show that’s all about the progression of food. It’s about real people who cook. If we, as Singaporeans, think we have one of the best food in the world, then we should support what we believe.
- As one of the three judges for the MasterChef Singapore series, did you take on a different persona as compared to the Chef Damian we know?
I will and always be Damian D’ Silva. Nothing can change that.
- In your role as MasterChef judge, what do you think is your key responsibility in this competition?
To be fair and consistent to my beliefs as a mentor.
- For a Singaporean contestant as well as a judge, what do think was the most challenging aspect of the competition?
Time constraint – An hour to execute a dish is a challenge, especially if you are unfamiliar with the ingredients.
- Looking back, if there was something in this competition you would do differently, what would it be?
Smile more! Most of the comments that I get from friends and family is that I look too stern and smiling would probably show a different side of me.
- What is your biggest takeaway from the MasterChef series?
The reality that Singaporeans really do not know much about their food culture. In the first episode, where they had an elimination challenge, sambal was the dish they had to execute. A few of them did not know how to cook it and some did not know what should go into it.
- For those who are considering to come onto a competition like MasterChef Singapore, what advice would you give an aspiring contestant?
Just because you think you can cook, it doesn’t mean you can last the competition. Cooking at home is imperfections done with heart. But when you put a time limit on that, everything is changed – there’s stress to do everything perfect within the hour and for that you’ll also need to be organised.
- If you were to present a dish for the finals of MasterChef that best represents you, what would it be?
A Singaporean noodle dish with seafood, or what is available in the pantry. There are so many options but everything would have to depend on ingredients that would be available to the contestants.
Catch MasterChef Singapore every Sunday on Channel 5 at 9:30pm, and Toggle’s Video On Demand.
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