WHO ARE THEY? Singaporean Eva Lean (right), 33, and Malaysian Debra Ch’ng (far right), 27, both based in Perth. They met as colleagues in the marketing department of an energy company there, and bonded over their love of food. They took part in season six of My Kitchen Rules, where contestants race to create a restaurant out of a home kitchen. The girls may have only made it to the semi-finals, but they've the highest score in the show’s history, cooking Asian chow like prawn cakes. Fun fact: Kim Tian Road in Tiong Bahru was named after Debra’s grandfather, Malaccan businessman Tan Kim Tian. “Yes, I’m literally walking on my grandfather’s road,” Debra laughs.
8 DAYS: Now that you’ve taken part in My Kitchen Rules, does this mean you are the go-to chefs for office parties?
EVA LEAN: Our colleagues ask us to cook on a weekly basis. We’ve made them food like lemon tarts, ice-cream sandwiches and curry. Whatever makes them happy! (Laughs). We love to cook for people, and our colleagues were very supportive to us while we were away [to film the show]. Our boss has been fed very well by us.
You got the highest score in My Kitchen Rules’ history partly ’cos of your amazing teamwork. Were there any moments when you felt frustrated with each other?
EVA: The show tested us on a lot of things, not just cooking skills. Deb and I are lucky to have worked together on marketing projects, so we already have that synergy going. But the show really took our relationship to another level. The first time we cooked on the show, we had this huge argument and there were lots of tears. But we put our egos aside and got the job done. We know when to push each other, and how far we can push.
DEBRA CH’NG: We balance each other. Eva is a perfectionist. Sometimes she takes longer to do things like plating. I’m more of a rustic cook — I measure ingredients [approximately]. But I’m good at time management, so I’m always the one who’s saying, “We have to get this done fast!” while she makes things look pretty.
How different is it working together in the office and being on the show?
DEBRA: In the office, we don’t have so many cameras staring at us while we work. On TV, you have to express yourself on camera and cannot internalise your feelings. We had difficulty [expressing ourselves] at the beginning of the show, but after understanding what we were expected to do, it became second nature.
Any memorable moments during filming that didn’t make it on air?
EVA: Yes. Epic comments from the judges like, “You make the best panna cotta and curry ever.” The secret to making good curry is kaffir that we grow ourselves. We also put charcoal in a shotglass, light it and place it in the middle of the pot [for a smoky flavour].
What’s one thing you learnt on the show that they didn’t teach you in school?
DEBRA: Most Australians don’t know what nasi lemak is. When we cooked that on one episode, it was trending as the 14th most searched term on Google the next day! My Kitchen Rules is a good platform to educate the wider audience [on Asian food].
EVA: We were lucky to be on the show and it helped us realise our dreams and potential. Now we want to make our dreams into reality. We’re in talks with publishers to write our own cookbook, and we hope to come up with a line of non-perishables. Opening a kopi tiam in Perth would be nice too.
Catch Eva and Debra on My Kitchen Rules, Mon to Wed, Diva (StarHub Ch 513; SingTel TV Ch 303), 9.25pm.