The first season of “MasterChef Asia” has concluded, crowning Woo Wai Leong as the winner — Weekender speaks to two Singapore contestants to find out how the show has changed their lives
Singapore’s “MasterChef Asia” winner Woo Wai Leong (left) and fellow contestant Lennard Yeong returned to Hong Kong Disneyland last month, where they raced to reproduce their own Disney dim sum buns. (Photo: Hong Kong Disneyland)
Before “MasterChef Asia”, 27-year-old engineer Lennard Yeong’s claim to fame was photogenic food and selfies on social media.
Lawyer Woo Wai Leong — or Leong — lived on the other side of the show: The 27-year-old was an avid fan and armchair critic who often decried contestants for making “rookie mistakes”.
Now, Asia knows the duo from Singapore as two of the region’s best MasterChefs. In the finale episode on Dec 10, Leong was crowned the first-ever MasterChef Asia winner.
Before the finale, I caught up with Lennard and Leong over a meal of dim sum at Hong Kong Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary party.
YOU WERE HERE IN HONGKONG TO FILM AN EPISODE. HOW IS IT LIKE TO BE BACK?
Lennard: It feels a lot better to be back as a human being and not a contestant. We have the freedom to use our phones and buy whatever we want!
Leong: [laughs] We get to see Chef Rudolf Muller when he’s not, well…
Lennard: Judging us. [laughs]
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING SINCE FILMING ENDED?
Leong: I’m busting out drinks at the same bar I’ve been at while doing my law training for the past two years.
Lennard: I’m actually working with Leong… Although I work a lot less than he does because I’m lazy. [laughs]
Leong: Very soon Lennard will be on stage and making drinks. We’ll see
YOU TWO SEEM TO HAVE GROWN VERY CLOSE.
Leong: Yes, but it’s not just Lennard and me. We meet regularly with the contestants who are based in Singapore, like Sandrian, Priya, Blanche and Alice.
Lennard: We’re all friends. There’s no animosity between us. It’s nice to meet people who are equally crazy about food and cooking.
Leong: It’s like when your boyfriend talks about being in the army and you don’t get it. With us, everyone’s been through the ‘army’ (of “MasterChef”), so we can talk non-stop and no one gets bored.
Lennard: For the premiere of the show, we did a potluck get-together. [Vietnamese contestant] Doan Phuong Ha flew over from Vietnam to watch it with us at Leong’s place.
Leong (left) and Lennard remain close friends with the other contestants even after the competition. (Photo: Pamela Chow)
WHAT’S THE STRANGEST FAN ENCOUNTER YOU’VE HAD?
Lennard: When I got eliminated, someone messaged me on Instagram and said she cried. I felt really bad so I told her, “It’s just a show; I’m happy doing what I’m doing now. So don’t worry about me.”
IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO SOMETHING ON THE SHOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Lennard: I would have tried harder not to get eliminated.
Leong: I wouldn’t have dropped the falafels!
WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE EATING HAUNT IN SINGAPORE?
Leong: We love Artichoke. Myself, I love Burnt Ends. When it comes to local food: Wee Nam Kee for roast chicken rice.
Lennard: Yes, Artichoke and Burnt Ends are good, and hawker centres as well. I discovered Blue Lotus in Sentosa, and they serve what I think is the best chilli crab in Singapore. It has become my favourite restaurant.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAY TO THOSE WHO’VE GIVEN NEGATIVE COMMENTS?
Lennard: A mistake might seem trivial but there’s a lot of build-up to that, or we’re really tired after a 14-hour shoot… You can walk into the pantry and something can be right in front of you but you don’t see it.
Leong: I’ve been watching all the cooking shows where I say, “Look at that guy; I can do better than that!” So whoever thinks they can do better, sign up for Season 2!
By Pamela Chow
Catch the “MasterChef Asia” encore telecast on Lifetime, StarHub TV Ch 514, from Dec 28 to Jan 2, daily from 11am to 2pm.