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Singapore Hawkers: 2, Gordon Ramsay: 1

Ramsay had a commanding presence
Ramsay had a commanding presence
Ramsay had a commanding presence

Masterchef Gordon Ramsay loses two out of three challenges to hawkers but ends up the winner with a 1,000-strong crowd

By Lester J Wan

The Masterchef himself, Gordon Ramsay, was in town for the Hawker Heroes Challenge at Newton Food Centre on Jul 7. There, the three-Michelin-star chef pit his skills against three of Singapore’s top hawker heroes.

Mdm Foo Kui Lian of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, Mr Ang Kiam Meng of Jumbo Seafood Restaurant [for Chilli Crab], and Mr Ryan Koh of 328 Katong Laksa were chosen out of a list of 12 popular hawkers through an online poll by SingTel.

Chef Ramsay had to visit the various hawkers and to learn to cook the dishes before the event.

Ramsay's Chilli Crab was fantastic, and easily won
Ramsay’s Chilli Crab was fantastic, and easily won

Fanatic Fans

More than 1,000 members of the public thronged to Newton Circus to witness this culinary battle. It was reported that some had even queued from 1am.

The pulsing crowd cheered whenever they were queried by the host, none other than Makansutra’s KF Seetoh himself, about Ramsay or whenever they caught a glimpse of him.

Before the night was over, Ramsay greeted his adoring fans and took photos with them, and even signed autographs. He was very different from his on-screen “Hell’s Kitchen” persona, and was the perfect gentleman.

Squaring Off

Diners were given a set of each of the hawkers’ speciality dishes, as well as Gordon’s version of each. Once they had eaten, they were asked to SMS their vote for the better version, which they preferred.

Our taste and preference matched the final result. Ramsay’s Chilli Crab was fantastic, and had a taste somewhat similar to that of the Perankan Ayam Buah Keluak curry, while Jumbo Seafood Restaurant’s Chilli Crab tasted a bit too sweet and was fairly starchy.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice and 328 Katong Laksa were in a league of their own and were incomparable to Ramsay’s rendition of the two dishes. Katong Laksa’s gravy was rich, creamy and flavourful, while Ramsay’s Laksa was a bit too spicy and biting to taste.

His laksa was too spicy and could not compare to 328 Katong Laksa
His laksa was too spicy and could not compare to 328 Katong Laksa

Love for Singaporean Food

“It’s been phenomenal to see how passionate the people of Singapore are about their hawker fare. The hawkers have impressed me with their ability to whip-up dishes with such amazing flavours,” said Ramsay.

“I can say without doubt the people of Singapore have much to be proud of – authentic, genuine, simple food that is of amazing quality and flavour,” he added.

Said Mdm Foo of Tian Tian, “I enjoyed teaching Chef Ramsay the art of making chicken rice. The SingTel Hawker Heroes Challenge was a wonderful celebration of the good food we have here in Singapore.”

Plans for Singapore

When pressed on further thoughts about Singapore and possible plans, he immediately responded that he loves Singapore and that he is definitely looking into plans for something here.

A new restaurant or Masterchef Singapore perhaps? We can expect to hear more in the near future.

Ultimately, the winners are Singaporean hawkers and Singaporean food.