We’re in the home of MasterChef Asia winner Woo Wai Leong, and Jimi Hendrix is playing in the background while Woo shows us the various dishes that he’s been working on, and his extensive range of culinary equipment — it’s enough to give anyone kitchen-envy as he casually shows us his knife collection, and shows us a few recipes that he’s been working on, including cured and charred swordfish; creamy tomato and egg instant noodles; and a vegan soybean ice cream topped with sarawak pepper meringue.
Hey Wai Leong! You look… tanned.
We just came back from shooting a travel show in Mongolia, and there really isn’t much shade in the desert. (His manager, Audrey then pipes in to point out that “all the boys refused to use sunscreen.”) It was a great experience! We got to drink freshly-distilled horse-milk vodka, although I think one of the highlights was my first time being face-to-face with an animal being slaughtered.
Why did you decide to join MasterChef?
There’s no long answer. I’m a huge fan!
How has your life changed since you’ve won the competition?
I don’t have any job security anymore (laughs). No, but even though it’s been two years, all the attention can still be a bit overwhelming sometimes.
What’s the first thing you’ve ever cooked?
I honestly don’t remember the first thing I ever cooked! One of my first memories of ‘cooking’ for myself would be mixing rice and leftover egg mayo with soy sauce and sesame oil. Total junk food but oh so delicious! Other things I remember doing when I was younger (say…primary school days) would be spaghetti carbonara and tiramisu, my mom was going through an Italian food phase and I guess it was natural that it rubbed off on me!
What’s the BEST THING YOU’VE EVER EATEN?
I’m fortunate enough to have been able to taste many things from all over the world and it’s really so hard to pick just one thing! I really can’t decide. From a chicken pie in Hong Kong to a full English breakfast in London to bak chor mee (minced meat and mushroom noodles) in Singapore. It’s too hard to choose!
Any plans for a restaurant of your own?
I’m now researching and developing dishes for a restaurant that’s in the pipeline actually. Can’t share too much yet, but I’m meeting partners and all that. It’ll be something like modern Asian, and I’m hoping to break down some of the conventional restaurant roles with it.