Congratulations to Woo Wai Leong and Singapore for winning the first ever Master Chef Asia title, $50,000 cash prize, and his very own cookbook! He beat 14 competitors and his roommate, Malaysian finalist Marcus in a 3-round finale battle that he dominated throughout.
I loved the pressure test involving the Mango Snowball by Chef Gaggan Anand, where they have to create a mango mousse frozen by liquid nitrogen using only three ingredients–mango, chocolate, and cream.
Lica from the Philippines finished in the Top 9 where she got eliminated during episode 8's Hawker challenge at the Changi Airport. She showed leadership and was a favorite among fans of the show. Jake and Rico were the first Filipinos to get eliminated in the show. (Read more: 3 Pinoys to Compete for the Title @MasterChefAsia)
Here are the things that I learned from watching the 15-episode series and from interviewing Lica on what it would take for Filipino Home Cooks to win in the next MasterChef Asia…
1. Exposure to the spices, ingredients, and flavors of other Asian Cuisines
Usually, when we are growing up we are only exposed to Filipino flavors and ingredients. Understanding the ingredients available in the MasterChef Asia pantry and being able to cook other Asian cuisines like Indian, Indonesian, Malay, and Thai is crucial to winning in the competition.
2. Millennial Home Cooks passionate about Filipino and ASEAN cuisine
We need the Millennial Filipino generation to be more passionate not only for our Filipino heritage but also for our ASEAN heritage. As we integrate our economy with our ASEAN neighbors, there is a need to embrace the cultures of other nations through their culinary traditions.
3. Experience both in Hawker and Restaurant Kitchens
It's a requirement to be an amateur cook with no prior professional or formal catering experience or culinary school qualifications. Getting exposed to hawker kitchens like the ones in Mercato Centrale and appreciation for professional kitchens would help in building confidence on the show.
4. Knowledge about Filipino Cuisine
Even the judges during the first MasterChef Asia were not familiar with Filipino cuisine. This can be used to one's advantage because of the uniqueness of our dishes, but it could also backfire because the judges may not be able to relate to the flavors.
5. Seek training for inspiring young chefs
Our kids who are passionate about culinary should be exposed at a younger age with culinary training at home, from friends, and from other chefs. I was watching the show with my boys and asked them who wanted to be a chef. Some of them expressed interest, but there is limited training available for our kids and teens.
6. Be exposed to global culinary events
We are lucky this coming year that we have two big international culinary events happening in Manila–Madrid Fusion on April 7-9, and the World Street Food Congress from April 20-25, 2016. You should attend these events to try and learn the philosophy and techniques of World-Class Chefs and be exposed to different culinary flavors and ingredients.
7. Attracting the right people to join the auditions of MasterChef Asia
I believe that we have the best Home Cooks in Asia, but most of them do not want to apply. Maybe because of the eight-week filming commitment or being too shy to be on the show. If you have friends who you think can best represent the Philippines in future MasterChef Asia seasons, actively encourage them to join to win the title for the country.
8. Mom and Dad as the best teacher
I believe the best home cooks are those who can get training from their parents who also are passionate about cooking. If you're a parent, train your sons and daughters to have fun early on in the kitchen, and teach them how to cook your Filipino heirloom recipes. It's also a good idea to plan your vacations around culinary centers like Yogyakarta or Bandung in Indonesia, Malacca in Malaysia, or Chiangmai in Thailand.
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. Read Our Awesome Planet Complete Disclosure Policy here.
P.S. Join the next MasterChef Asia here: http://www.lifetimeasia.com/shows/masterchef-asia