Winner of inaugural MasterChef Singapore, Zander Ng, learnt to cook from the heart

Along with the title, Zander Ng took home a $10,000 cash prize, $2,000 worth of shopping vouchers at Cold Storage supermarkets, and a host of kitchen appliances. PHOTO: MASTERCHEF SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Zander Ng may have just been crowned the winner of the inaugural edition of cooking reality TV show MasterChef Singapore but he has had little time to celebrate.

After the 30-year-old won the title on Sunday (Oct 21) night, he had one drink with friends - and then he had to run across town to go supermarket shopping.

"I had a cooking event to go to the next day, so I had to go to a couple of 24-hour supermarkets to pick up ingredients. The cooking never stops," he told The Straits Times on Monday (Oct 22) morning.

The former IT manager, whose father is Singaporean and mother, Australian, gained a reputation for his ability to put out creative fusion dishes on the show. In the final round, he beat fellow finalist Genevieve Lee after cooking a five-course fusion dinner spread.

His menu was made up of a flank steak with Asian chimichurri, pan-seared red snapper with beurre blanc, shaved fennel marinated with soy, honey and lime, fettuccine carbonara with szechuan peppercorns, as well as ondeh-ondeh panna cotta.

The panna cotta, which failed to set in time, was the one dish that nearly cost him the title. "It was definitely not up to scratch. I was so disappointed," he recalled. "But that is part of the whole MasterChef Singapore experience - sometimes things work out, and other things, it doesn't. But you learn as you go."

The biggest lesson he took away from his time on the show? Learning to cook from the heart.

"In the beginning, I was playing it safe and cooking dishes that I thought I should do as a MasterChef contestant. They were slightly fancier, I think.

"But halfway through the show, I realised that you succeed if you didn't care too much about that. I realised that I should just cook dishes that I wanted to cook, and make food that I love and that I know other people will also love," he said.

Along with the title, Ng took home a $10,000 cash prize, $2,000 worth of shopping vouchers at Cold Storage supermarkets, and a host of kitchen appliances. He also secured a book publishing deal - for which he already has a number of recipes ready, he said - as well as internships at home-grown restaurants Folklore and Artichoke.

The two popular eateries are run by two of the three judges on the show - Folklore is by Damian D'Silva, while Artichoke is by Bjorn Shen. The third judge is Audra Morrice, who was a MasterChef Australia finalist as well as a judge on MasterChef Asia.

"All of the judges were just incredible. They took each contestant aside to really talk to us about cooking, checked on how we were doing, and gave us the nudges we needed to move along. I look forward to working with them in a professional kitchen setting."

Ng, who already has a number of cooking collaborations set up for the weeks to come, also plans to take some time off to travel the world and explore more world cuisines.

The eldest of six children, who added that winning the show is a "dream come true", said that his parents, who work in real estate, are elated with the results.

"They are just really, really proud of me. When I was announced the winner, my mum was just speechless - and it takes a lot to make my mum speechless," he said.

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