Big dreams for finalists of Chef Minor

Matthew Tong and Ananthi Aishwariya are two of 12 finalists in the Singapore edition of Chef Minor.
Matthew Tong and Ananthi Aishwariya are two of 12 finalists in the Singapore edition of Chef Minor.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Chef Minor, a new televised cook-off show for juniors, could be a hotbed for aspiring chefs here.

Student Matthew Tong, 13, joined the contest because he is fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the kitchen on celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's television shows.

"I've watched how intense the competition can get on cooking shows such as Hell's Kitchen. It's thrilling to be able to experience the stress that the chefs go through. One day, I hope to intern at Bread Street Kitchen," says the Fairfield Methodist Secondary student, who is referring to the chef's restaurant at Marina Bay Sands.

He is one of the 12 finalists taking part in the Singapore edition of Hong Kong channel TVB8's television cooking contest Chef Minor, which is airing on cable channel E-City (StarHub Channel 825).

The contestants pit their cooking chops in individual and group cooking challenges in a bid to become the champion. The winner will walk away with a trophy and shopping vouchers worth $200, among other prizes.

Held here for the first time, the contest is open to Singaporean and permanent residents cooking enthusiasts aged eight to 13.

The youngest of the finalists is Ananthi Aishwariya, who dreams of becoming a professional chef.

The soft-spoken 10-year-old has shown great drive in pursuing her passion.

When she did not hear from the organiser after signing up for the audition, she called them to find out if something was amiss. She was then told that her application form had been misplaced and had not reached the organiser.

Her initiative nabbed her a spot in the auditions, which drew 45 hopefuls and was held during the June school holidays last year.

The Wellington Primary School pupil impressed the judges with a cheese spaghetti dish at the auditions and made it to the finale, which was filmed late last year.

Ananthi has been baking desserts almost daily since she was eight, mostly for family members.

"I learnt to bake by watching YouTube videos. I find it relaxing. I like to cook for my family," says Ananthi, who has an older brother. Her parents run a marketing business.

Tong, who is in Secondary 1, also enjoys cooking for his family. Having picked up the skill from his social-entrepreneur mother since he was eight, he can now whip up meals on his own.

He once prepared a dinner of teriyaki chicken, scrambled eggs and cabbage for his older siblings when his mother had to pick up his architect father from the airport.

Tong, the youngest of three children, says: "When I want my mum to rest, I will take over the kitchen. I know almost all the dishes that she cooks. I find cooking relaxing."

•Chef Minor Singapore airs on Tuesdays at 8pm on E-City (StarHub Channel 825). The series will also be aired on TVB8 (StarHub Channel 829) and will premiere on June 17 at 9pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Big dreams for finalists of Chef Minor'. Print Edition | Subscribe