Fanning the fire

MALAYSIAN fans of MasterChef Australia are looking forward to see how well Sabah-born Metter Chin will do in season 10 of this reality cooking competition.

They will want to see if Chin can follow in the footsteps of Diana Chan, another Malaysia-born chef, who won the title last season.

Chin, 54, who was born in Kota Kinabalu, is now an Australian citizen living in Sydney where he works as a project manager.

“I left Malaysia over 20 years ago,” he says in a recent tele-conference interview. “I was a student here in Australia and then I decided to move to New Zealand.

“I later decided to migrate back to Australia. I still have family in Kota Kinabalu but I am living here permanently now.”

Describing himself as “basically a home cook”, Chin says his hobby is to cook and entertain friends at home.

“I really did not know what to expect when I tried out for MasterChef,” he added, but he managed to reach the top 24.

Asked if he took some extra cooking lessons to prepare for the competition, Chin says: “Not really. I have some idea when it comes to cooking different styles.”

Still, he says he would encourage anyone who wants to take part in MasterChef to learn different things before signing on, “because it is not an easy thing to do”.

He adds that watching the show on TV can give you a basic idea of what the contestants need to do.

But it is during rounds like the Mystery Box Challenge, where you are given a diverse range of ingredients to cook with, that you must really prove your skills by coming up with something quickly.

The skills level of the contestants on MasterChef Australia has increased greatly from the first season.

The home cooks now are experts at molecular gastronomy and global cuisine as the series progressed.

Season nine winner Chan has admitted she wanted to take part earlier but realised that she needed to learn more cooking techniques in order to keep up with the other competitors.

When asked if he had done the same, Chin says he did have additional skills beyond being a home cook, but adds that “I guess they (the judges) liked what I cooked for them and that is why I got into the top 24”.

Of all the celebrity chefs he met on the show, he admires and appreciates Maggie Beer the most.

“She was there during a pressure test. She gave me a lot of encouragement and she is a very special person.”

MasterChef Australia judge Matt Preston, at the History Con event in Singapore last year, commented that Malaysians generally do well in these competitions because they like to try different foods and then try to cook them.

Chin agrees, adding: “Of course, we are very multi-cultural and we are familiar with spices and different types of cooking techniques since we were very young.

“We are very much aware of the different styles of cooking and compositions of various cuisines when it comes to cooking.”

He adds that Australians themselves are now exposed to a wide variety of cuisines, ingredients and cooking styles.

“If you go to the marketplace, you can get ingredients you could not get years ago,” says Chin. “There are lots of produce and products that are available now.”

He adds that these changes are due to Australia’s big migrant population who brought their own style and variety to the food scene in Australia.

The rendang controversy that occurred earlier this year in MasterChef UK pointed the spotlight on the judges who sometimes are not in touch with cuisines from other countries.

Chin says: “Different culture bring different things to the competition and the judges have to upgrade themselves.”

He adds that is why MasterChef Australia judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Preston travel to other countries frequently to try out different cuisines.

“They want to upgrade their cooking, styles, techniques and knowledge,” says Chin. “They might not have been able to get a clear idea by remaining in Australia.”

As to Preston’s quip that the best cook doesn’t always win the competition, Chin concurs: “That is true. What happens in a competition is that you are as good as the last dish you cooked.”

He says there are many factors as to why a person is eliminated, adding that it can just be bad luck or a bad day.

His advice to future competitors is “to always remain calm, know how to control your emotions and also have a wealth of knowledge on how to prepare things in less than 60 minutes”.

MasterChef Australia season 10 premieres on June 18 on Lifetime (Astro channel 709), and then from Mondays to Fridays at 8pm and 10.55pm.