MOUTHS were drooling last Saturday at the R.AGE Food Fight finale, where the five finalists presented their recipes and cooking show style in front of bright lights, multiple cameras, and a live audience.
The finalists were judged by a panel of industry professionals – Chef Wan, Le Cordon Bleu Malaysia master chef Rodolphe Onno, restaurateur Darren Chin, performing artiste Tan Chun Liang, and top food blogger KY Speaks – on their personality, food knowledge, and culinary skills.
If there was one running theme throughout the entire competition, it was the usage of locally inspired flavours, from Food Fight’s featured ingredient – palm oil – to the contestants’ choices of recipes.
Penang-based chef Nurilkarim Razha, dished out a succulent baked fish with prawn otak-otak, ulam pesto and paku salad, which he served to the judges and the live audience at Le Cordon Bleu Malaysia.
“I feel like even though I’m using some imported ingredients, they’re there to make the local ingredients shine,” Nurilkarim said during his presentation. “Our local ingredients don’t get the spotlight as often as they deserve.”
It was an insanely close match between Nurilkarim and first runner-up, Ahong Yeang, who served up a plate of roast chicken in coconut gravy with a fancy-as-hell chicken skin crisp.
Yeang’s show was non-stop laughter as he captivated the crowd with his dry humour and big personality.
“You really could be a stand-up comedian!” said Chef Wan to Yeang during the feedback and tasting session. Chin added that his hearty dish was a perfect representation of Yeang’s larger-than-life personality.
Third place went to home baker and food stylist Li-Anne Kuek, who stole the judges’ hearts from the get-go with her bubbly personality. Her dish was a pumpkin loaf with white chocolate ganache, milk crumble and honeycomb. Although the judges did comment on her lack of local ingredients compared to Yeang and Nurilkarim’s recipes, she did a very good job of presenting the benefits of palm oil and incorporating it into her recipe.
Nevertheless, Chef Wan said he was impressed by Nurilkarim’s knowledge of local ingredients and cooking styles, and that no one was better suited to be the face of Malaysian cuisine.
“He is the whole package,” he said.
Fellow finalist Ashley Pan, a tax consultant and home baker from Sarawak, agreed.
“Nuril knows so much about local ingredients,” she said. “He’s got such great talent, but at the same time he’s really humble.”
Nurilkarim, who will now be a food columnist and video host for R.AGE, said he already has plans for what he will be talking about, and yes, it will have a lot to do with promoting Malaysia’s local flavours for the new generation. Frankly, we can’t wait.