12 Oct 2018
Photos: MasterChef Singapore
And then there were two. Sunday night’s episode of twists and surprises saw Sharon Gonzago and Shamsydar Ani booted from the MasterChef Singapore kitchen, paving the way for the final showdown between Genevieve Lee and Zander Ng.
It was a bittersweet exit for Sharon (extreme right), who was eliminated in the restaurant takeover challenge in the presence of her idol, Marco Pierre White. In the challenge, contestants had to cook for 60 guests on the opening night of Marco’s restaurant The English House, under the watchful eyes of the Michelin chef himself. Charged with making the chicken and leek pie, Sharon ran into some consistency issues with her dish and got worst dish of the day.
When we caught up with Sharon after the elimination, we expected her to be beating herself up for her disappointing performance. But the 48-year-old, who was still fangirling over the chef, didn’t mind getting sent home. Cooking with Marco was reward enough.
12 Oct 2018
TOGGLE: One of the feedback was that your pie wasn't baked evenly. What happened?
SHARON: The first batch of chicken that I made was not up to Marco’s standard, so I lost time there.. about 45 minutes. As a result, I didn’t have enough time to bake the pie properly resulting in the uneven baking.
You are a huge fan of Marco Pierre White. Were you gutted that you were eliminated in the restaurant takeover challenge?
No, I wasn’t gutted because I came to MasterChef without any expectations and I made it to the Top 4. It’s good. And to see Marco there, it was more than enough for me because it this is a money-cannot-buy experience. How many people can say they cooked with Marco Pierre White in his kitchen? I really wanted to do justice to his dish, so that was one disappointment.
What was your first reaction when you saw him?
I cried. I was very touched that he was there because I never expected Marco. I was fangirling a lot!
What were some of the things that you did?
(Looks dreamily) Oh, we made the velouté sauce together, but he went easy on me. He’s called the enfant terrible so I was a bit apprehensive but he was a totally different Marco in the kitchen. He was very guiding, like a mentor. Whenever he saw that we were slipping, he would step in and up we came again.
Cooking with him must have been the highlight of your MasterChef journey.
That’s the highlight of my life! Case closed!
How has your life changed after MasterChef?
Before MasterChef, no one would say come cook in my kitchen, [but now I am invited to host feasts]. I am Peranakan and I love heritage cooking because it defines us as a person, as a race, as a society, so I am trying to keep heritage cooking alive with my tok panjang feast, which is a feast for a group of people, consisting of 18 to 24 dishes, from starters to desserts.
And the guests were very happy because they have never experienced it before and they were wowed by it, so it’s a validation. Even though I was eliminated, I know I am more than that. I am going to take what I have learned on MasterChef and just go forward.
Photo: Sharon Gonzago
12 Oct 2018
My main was terrible, I wouldn't eat it myself: Shamsydar Ani
Meanwhile, Shamsydar, 28, narrowly missed out on a spot in the finale when she served a "terrible" satay beef flank in the second challenge. With full access to the pantry, contestants were given free rein to cook whatever they wanted. If it sounded too good to be true, that’s because it was. The twist: Once the chefs returned with their favorite ingredients, they were told to swap baskets. DUN DUN DUUUNN!
Shamsydar, who was handed Gen’s basket, struggled with the lack of ingredients and decided to stick with her original idea of a satay beef with a spicy sauce inspired by chef Marco's veloute. Unfortunately the risk did not pay off and was sent home.
12 Oct 2018
TOGGLE: You said your dish tasted terrible. What do think went wrong?
SHAMSYDAR: I guess I wanted to force whatever I had at the back of my head into Gen’s ingredients so ultimately it was doomed for failure. I should have just figured something new to make with her ingredients.
I have made beef satay steak per se before but not the sauce. Spiced velouté was something I got inspiration from Marco White’s kitchen when Sharon made the velouté sauce with the pie. I thought maybe that would work, but unfortunately it didn’t.
What do you wish you knew before entering MasterChef?
More recipes! I think I should have studied more and memorised more recipes, but I’m the kind of person who would rather do things as I go along, even when it comes to photography, I do it the hands-on method. But I am a kinesthetic learner, so I couldn’t just memorise or download recipes to my brain but I should have done that.
You have made some memorable dishes on MasterChef. Which one are you most proud of?
Definitely my sweetbread nasi lemak, which is an atas (high class) version of nasi lemak. I took something that is really humble and very cheap and elevated it with sweetbread (pancreas). It tastes totally different but yet you have the familiarity, so it brings you home. And that dish won the sweetbread challenge. I am very proud of that.
You are dubbed the ‘Spice Queen’ of MasterChef. How do you feel about the title?
I am very honoured to be dubbed the ‘Spice Queen’. You cannot imagine the number of times I have heard my mother’s voice in my head going “You haven’t finished tempering the spices. Fry some more” when I was cooking in the MasterChef kitchen. It is the only one valuable advice my mum has given to me when it comes to cooking.
We are now down to the Final 2 – Zandar and Gen. Who do you have your money on?
I love Zander, I love Gen’s cooking, but I really think Gen will win this simply because she has a thought process which is more exciting and a lot more complex. I was struggling with my dessert in the dessert challenge and there she was doing seven things in one tiny cup. It’s really amazing. I really want to see how she performs in the final cook off against Zander. I think Zander has to bring something else to the plate.
15 Oct 2018
The contestants share a moment after the restaurant takeover challenge
15 Oct 2018
Contestants enjoy a meal with Marco