Marina Square crowns winners of foodie host search

The winners share their favourite food haunts and food photography tips

Photos: Marina Square
Photos: Marina Square
13 Sep 2017

Photos: Marina Square

Pictured clockwise from top left: Gwendolyn Lim, Yasminne Cheng, Herbert Liu, Cayenne Chin, Catherine Xie, Royce Lee, Umehara Keiji (absent: Jackie See) 

After close to two months, Marina Square’s Foodiegram Sundays Foodie Host Search finally came to an end last Sunday (Sep 10), with 26-year-old emcee and presenter Royce Lee walking away with the crown, as well as a night's stay in Pan Pacific Singapore's Panoramic Room and $500 in Marina Square shopping & dining vouchers.

Coming in second and third, respectively, were emcee Herbert Liu, 36, and 27-year-old YouTuber Umehara Keiji, 27.

During the seven-week competition, the seven contestants each had to host a small group of diners at a different restaurant every Sunday from July 23 to September 3, introducing the dishes and imparting valuable food photography tips.

The hosts were then scored by the diners based on a number of factors, including their food photography tips, ‘X’ factor, and their knowledge of the restaurant and its dishes.

Diners who managed to snag tickets to the special tasting sessions were in for a gastronomical delight, with the participating restaurants pulling out all the stops for them.

The first session, which was hosted by Umehara Keiji at Kith Cafe, saw the eatery offering up their famed pizzas for the hungry patrons.

Next up, Shio & Pepe @ Emporium Shokuhin impressed Cayenne Chin and diners with their fusion Japanese-Italian dishes like their Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Omu Rice, while diners and host Catherine Xie were treated to a delectable Gindara Mentai & Wagyu Beef Steak meal at Tenkaichi.

Not to be outdone, Collin’s whipped up an enormous sampling platter with roasted chicken, pork ribs done two ways, sea tiger prawns, sausages and sides for each of their customers (Ed’s note: We heard that the serving sizes were so huge, host Jackie See had to call in an SOS from good friend and fellow competitor Herbert Liu to help polish off some of his food.)

Hosted by Gwendolyn Lim, Takujo Japanese Dining @ Emporium Shokuhin offered up a selection of mains from their menu, including their Gindara Mentaiyaki Bento, and Negitoro, Hotate & Ikura Don Set, for diners to choose from.

On week 6, Mouth Restaurant served a dainty selection of their finest dim sum offerings, consisting of fresh prawn siew mai and the restaurant’s Legendary Liu Sha Bao, as well as the host, Royce Lee’s personal favourite, the Deep Fried Banana Prawn Roll.

Last but not least, Le Garden impressed diners and host Herbert Liu with a nine-course menu, starring a fresh seafood platter filled with prawns, crabs and various shellfish.

After the hustle of the competition, the winners were announced at a dinner at Kai Garden in Marina Square last Sunday, where the contestants tucked into a sumptuous meal featuring the restaurant’s signature dishes with Class 95 deejay Yasminne Cheng, and shared more about their experience.

For those who’ve missed out on these sumptuous Marina Square delights, there’s no better time than now to try them all! Your next Instagram post could also win you $50 dining vouchers! Simply dine at any restaurant in Marina Square, post a picture of your meal on Instagram with the hashtag #MSQeats and tag a foodie friend! Remember to set your Instagram profile to public to qualify. 

Royce Lee, foodie host at Mouth Restaurant
Royce Lee, foodie host at Mouth Restaurant
13 Sep 2017

Royce Lee, foodie host at Mouth Restaurant

How did you prepare for this event?
I went down earlier that week to try out [the food] and formulate my own thoughts about the dishes. There’s not much information online, so I asked the staff to explain what’s in each dish and the ingredients. What makes Mouth Restaurant special is that they focus on traditional dishes with a modern twist, so I think that was really quite unique, making it easier for me to explain the fusion dishes as well.

Were there any memorable incidents when you were hosting?
I’m really glad that the people who went there were mostly part of the older generation, so they were more forgiving to the xiao didi (young boy) who was all, ‘Hello, I’m gonna host you guys today’.

What was your favourite dish from the meal?
The dish I loved the most was the Deep Fried Banana Prawn Roll, it was half banana and half prawn. The crispy skin added a lot of texture and layers to the roll, it was sweet and savoury at the same time.

What’s your favourite food haunt?
I really love Kith Cafe, they have an outlet here in Marina Square as well. I always have their tenderloin pasta, it’s really nice, you don’t usually get a lot of meat with pasta, but for this, they serve up beef cubes in the tomato sauce, it’s really good.

What were the food photography tips you shared during the meal?
I think it’s actually a challenge to take photos of Chinese cuisine, because a lot of the food served, like the fried rice and noodles were quite flat. It was tough for me to bring out the different layers. Unlike the usual café food, which tends to be colourful, fried rice is usually just white rice and maybe some eggs. So I told the participants to try and take a scoop of rice, and take the photo from the side and a lower angle, so that the ingredients of the rice can be seen.

Herbert Liu, foodie host at Le Garden
Herbert Liu, foodie host at Le Garden
13 Sep 2017

Herbert Liu, foodie host at Le Garden

How did you prepare for this event?
For me I think the good thing is, as you can figure out from my size, I am not that picky when it comes to food.

I like to try different food, though I usually prefer Chinese food. I did a bit of research beforehand - it was interesting to see that they had something that was a little different from other restaurants, with their layered steam pots.

What was your favourite dish from the meal?
The Salt & Pepper Tofu! We had a participant who said that he doesn’t like tofu, however, he loved that dish. Of course, we later found out that it was not pure tofu, but seafood mixed with tofu. But, it was a very fresh take on the dish, with a good combination of all the ingredients.

What’s your favourite food haunt?
Apart from the Sarawak Kolo Mee at Marina Square, which I really like because my dad is from Sarawak, so it brings back some nostalgia. I also like the carrot cake at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5. It’s only open three days a week, and located just opposite the police post. I’ve been eating it since my primary school days and I’m 36 [now]. My standard order is white carrot cake, with extra eggs and chye poh (preserved radish).

As you’re part of emceeing duo called ‘Twins Gone Wrong’ with fellow competitor Jackie See, was there any sense of competition between the both of you?
No, there was no sense of competition between us, we’re both pretty chillax and laid back to begin with, although we do say certain things like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna win this,’ to each other.

I actually told him earlier today, ‘You don’t have to come, I’m gonna win this,’ but of course, we do it in the name of fun. In fact, there’s a high chance that I’m going to bring him out to eat with the dining vouchers I’ve won.

Umehara Keiji, foodie host at Kith Cafe
Umehara Keiji, foodie host at Kith Cafe
13 Sep 2017

Umehara Keiji, foodie host at Kith Cafe

How did you prepare for this event?
The day before [I hosted the food event], I read up about Kith Cafe, and did some research. The people from Marina Square were very nice to give me some background information, so that definitely helped as well. I’ve been to the cafe a few times before, but, I’m not going to lie, there wasn’t much preparation on my part. I went there just to have fun, and I really did!

You’re a YouTuber by profession, are there any difference between hosting and making YouTube videos?
For YouTube, you can edit out your mistakes, but this is real life, where you can’t cut away the mistakes. The interactions with people are very different as well. On YouTube, you’re taking to the camera, but for this, you’re talking to real people, and you can see if your jokes are funny immediately, because they’re not laughing. On YouTube, you’re behind the screen, and it doesn’t matter if people don’t laugh, but for this, if they don’t laugh, it’s quite painful lah.

Were there any memorable experiences during the event?
First of all, it’s my first time really hosting a food event, I’ve done hosting for parties and the like, but this is a whole new dynamic. I love food but I don’t know how to describe food properly, for me, food is always just ‘nice, nice, nice,’ but there’s more to describing food than just “nice”. So, I think the biggest thing for me was watching videos on how people actually describe food and how they host. I also got quite close to some of the other contestants, and made quite a few good friends here.

What was your favourite dish from the meal?
The coffee jelly, it’s really legit. They used their own coffee beans, and they brew everything themselves, so you can really taste the essence of the coffee. 

I really love coffee jelly, and the best one I had was in Japan. So, when I had their version, I was a bit hesitant, and thought that it couldn’t beat Japan, but it was really not bad! I only wish that it was a bit sweeter, because their coffee’s really strong.

What’s your favourite food haunt?
I like Maxwell Food Centre, it’s a good supper place. But, you shouldn’t go too late at night, because a lot of weird things happen there (laughs). The porridge and curry rice there are good.

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