Student sets Guinness World Record for making longest pasta in a minute

Nanyang Polytechnic student Samuel Tan practised for eight months to beat his favourite celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's world record for the longest sheet of pasta rolled in one minute by an individual.
Nanyang Polytechnic student Samuel Tan practised for eight months to beat his favourite celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's world record for the longest sheet of pasta rolled in one minute by an individual. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Early last year, Mr Samuel Tan wanted to recreate a seafood alfredo dish from a restaurant he visited during a trip to South Africa.

This culinary goal was soon abandoned in favour of something far more ambitious - a bid for a Guinness World Record.

As the pandemic unfolded, the 19-year-old Nanyang Polytechnic student found he had more free time, especially during the nearly two-month circuit breaker, which started on April 7 last year.

He started cooking more, making fresh pasta for the first time. Before long, he was experimenting with pulling the longest noodles he could.

He has a competitive streak and is fascinated by contests of extreme speed or endurance. As a child, he used to enjoy running on the pavement to race cars going by. When he was in his secondary school's bowling team, he wanted to bowl the fastest 300 - a perfect score, involving 12 strikes - among his peers. He never succeeded.

But he did not give up trying. Last year, he came across a 2017 video of his favourite celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay pulling off a shot at the existing world record for the longest sheet of pasta rolled in one minute by an individual.

He recalls thinking: "I could do that."

He used to enjoy reading the Guinness World Records, an annual publication, in his childhood.

In February last year, he decided to aim to beat chef Ramsay's record of making a sheet of pasta that was 1.4478m long. He lodged his application with the Guinness World Records organisation the following month.

SPH Brightcove Video
Samual Tan, 19, found a novel way to get through the circuit breaker. Inspired by a video by Gordon Ramsay, he broke a world record for pasta making.

The task proved more difficult than expected.

First, he had to determine the combination of flour, eggs, salt and water needed to make pasta with the optimum texture and elasticity.

He experimented with cake flour and bread flour, before plumping for plain flour.

The flour shortages that ensued, as masses of people took to comfort baking during Covid-19 last year, meant Mr Tan and his parents had to look high and low to find the brand he needed.

The family ate a lot of pasta last year, Mr Tan - the youngest of three children - notes wryly.

The criteria set by Guinness World Records were challenging.

For verification purposes, he had to find professional witnesses such as a videographer, a food safety officer and a specialist "with expertise in measurement", according to the guidelines.

The last was a head-scratcher until Mr Tan's father thought of asking a golfing buddy, who had been an accredited official at the prestigious British Open golf tournament in 2019.

Mr Tan later learnt that this witness also had to have a relevant degree, such as one in architecture - which, serendipitously, he did.

There were times when Mr Tan was tempted to give up.

"It was way too much work, but there was nothing to lose," he says.

The day before his attempt at the world record on Oct 8 last year, he unpacked and promptly broke a new pasta maker, which he had planned to use to roll out the dough. It was the third one he had broken during eight months of practising.

On the day itself, the atmosphere was tense with anticipation in the family's landed home in Serangoon.

A representative from Guinness World Records had not flown in.

Instead, a socially distanced group of five professional witnesses gathered as Mr Tan prepared his set-up, masked, gloved and reminding himself not to scratch his head as it would infringe the hygiene regulations.

The video footage and other documentation of the proceedings were later sent to the Guinness World Records office for verification.

Mr Tan's first attempt yielded a sheet of pasta that was 1.94m long. But he was worried there might have been a slight tear in the dough, which would disqualify him. He hit 2.03m on his second try, smashing the Guinness World Record by more than 50cm.

His parents, directors at an investment company who are both 56 years old, are proud of his achievement.

His mother Wendy Khoo says helping and supporting Mr Tan in his quest has brought the family closer together.

His father Tony Tan is glad that his son learnt the value of resilience through numerous rounds of experimentation and practice.

For Mr Samuel Tan, lingering feelings of being a self-confessed "loser" with bad grades have been put to rest. He reckons he was one of the worst students in his secondary school cohort.

He says: "I was a failure last time. This was the biggest confidence booster: You're No. 1 in the world."

To celebrate his win, he took his family out for dinner at Bread Street Kitchen, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant.

SCAN TO WATCH How to break a pasta record str.sg/pasta10

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2021, with the headline Student sets Guinness World Record for making longest pasta in a minute. Subscribe