HOW many of us can say Chef Wan wants to make a cooking show with us as the star?
Ahong Yeang can. The R.AGE Food Fight finalist cooked his heart out and served it on a plate, to rave reviews from the judges.
“You have that wonderful personality and even if you were a lousy cook (which Yeang definitely isn’t), that sells. You’re a natural – you can be a comedian, a historian, a storyteller and a chef. Keep that, nurture it and grow,” said Chef Wan of the 32-year-old.
Despite Yeang wowing the judges with his wit and humour, they ultimately named Penang-based restaurant manager Nurilkarim Razha the champion of the 2015 R.AGE Food Fight.
Le Cordon Bleu Malaysia master chef Rodolphe Onno judged Nurilkarim’s dish to be the most complex and technically difficult.
“I would have preferred a little more salt but he was the most well-rounded in terms of cooking skills, presentation and personality,” said Onno.
While his presentation didn’t have the audience laughing out loud like Yeang’s, Chef Wan complimented him on his confidence.
“I liked the way you presented yourself and talked about your past, the dish and the style of cooking.”
Tan said it was an incredibly close call between Yeang and Nurilkarim, and it ultimately came down to finesse.
“I love Ahong from the bottom of my heart but if you talk about the complete package – cooking, knowing your ingredients, presenting well – then I feel we’ve crowned the right champion.”
Less lucky was tax consultant Ashley Pan, 23, whose presentation and dish received mixed reviews from the judges.
Chef Wan had some constructive criticism for her – avoid being too repetitive when you’re hosting a show.
“If I heard one more time about your father, I was going to fall asleep,” said Chef Wan during the feedback session, straight-shooting as ever. “It’s a nice story, and I wish my own children will talk about me like that, but you should capture the moment once, and then drop it.”
Chef Darren Chin, who owns the highly-rated DC Restaurant, said there was a lack of entertainment value in Kelly Siew’s presentation, though he noticed she was trying to present her dish as a healthy option.
“That would have been a better topic. You talked a bit too much on how you were feeling ahead of the finals,” he said.
The judges all loved Li-Anne Kuek’s presentation, though food blogger KY Speaks noted the lack of local ingredients in her very fancy pumpkin walnut loaf dessert.
Tan, on the other hand, found that the graphic designer and food stylist’s dish incorporated palm oil the best.
“I think today was a triumph of sorts for palm oil,” said Tan. “These guys have shown that it can be used well as a main ingredient and not just a substitute. Normally you bake with butter but Li-Anne did it with palm oil, and she debunked a lot of myths about palm oil.”
Chef Onno agreed: “Everyone used palm oil – to fry, to bake, to make tartare – which was good.”