The food dreams of Hong Kong’s Debbie Wong and Malaysia’s Ili Sulaiman have come true.
This is because they have emerged as this year’s winners in Food Hero 2015 – a contest held by the Asian Food Channel and Food Network, to determine Asia’s best home cooks & food presenters.
WIN WAS COMPLETELY SURREAL
To Wong, the host of YouTube web series “Wok and Gong” and a huge fan of Food Network since her childhood days, it had been completely surreal. On her win, she said, “I grew up watching Food Network, and now to have been given the opportunity to be hosting a show on Food Network, is truly a dream come true! The whole Food Hero competition has been such a surreal and truly joyful experience and I’m so excited to see what Scripps Network has in store for me!”
Sulaiman, who owns and runs food delivery business “Dish By Ili”, also didn’t expect to win the competition at all. She added, “It was really unexpected, as I did not even expect myself to get through the first round. I submitted the initial audition video and to my surprise, I got through one round after the other. I actually tried applying last year but I did not even get through the first round.”
HAD TO SUBMIT A SERIES OF VIDEOS
To audition for the competition, the aspiring home cooks & presenters had to submit a food video – which was judged based on their personality, on-screen appeal and their ability to produce engaging and creative content.
The finalists were then instructed to produce another food video, this time an instructions one where they had to talk to the camera while cooking a dish. The final phase of the audition process was to create a Food Wars Asia video, where they had to compare similar dishes from two different restaurants.
Wong added that the latter – the Food Wars Asia style video wasn’t easy to produce. She said, “I think going into the restaurants to compare the two dishes was quite challenging. I had to describe each one and distinguish them from each other, even though both dishes were similar.” But nevertheless, she was pleased with her efforts.
FINALISTS FACED EACH OTHER IN A COOK-OFF IN SINGAPORE
Based on their videos, the five grand finalists selected, then faced each other in a do-or-die cook-off at Stellar, 1-Altitude in Singapore, where they had been required to prepare a dish of their choice – using the key ingredients of Japanese Miyazaki Wagyu Beef.
Sulaiman had prepared a subtle Garlic Mashed Potato dish and had served it with Seared Tomato. She said, “This makes it slightly acidic but still sweet. Then I seared the beef rare and topped it off with a little bit of Garlic Chips.” As a bonus too, Sulaiman’s concoction had also been voted as the Best Wagyu Beef dish of the evening.
For Wong, on the other hand, her dish was a paprika crusted Miyazaki Rib-Eye. She said “It is sprinkled with a little bit of smoked paprika and it has a deep smokey flavour. Also, I wanted to pair it with something with a huge contrast, so I had summer coleslaw. And to tie it all together, I made a sweet pepper salsa. Finally, right on top, I used some Shiso leaf as decoration.”
ENTIRE JOURNEY WAS A MEMORABLE ONE
For both girls, the entire Food Hero journey has definitely been very memorable. Explained Sulaiman, “We come from different backgrounds and different countries, but the one thing that pulls us together is good food. We all have our different styles, and I think it’s really nice to find somebody that has the same passion as you.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Now that they have won Food Hero 2015, the girls are certainly looking forward to the new opportunities that have opened up for them.
Said Wong, “I love it when opportunities come my way. Being a food show host is really where I want to put my focus on – and for now, that is something that really makes me happy. I am open to everything that the network has for me, as it is such an opportunity for me to do what I love on such a prestigious platform!”
TIPS FOR FOOD HERO 2016 CONTENDERS
And what are some tips that they can share, for aspiring Food Hero 2016 contenders? Said Wong, “Here’s what I think makes a good Food Show Host – being a great communicator, and someone who is able to make the audience experience all their senses through the screen. To taste, smell, hear and see what I do, through the screen.”
Added Sulaiman, “Try and find what your passion is. For me, my passion is people, as I love everything about them. Find out what motivates and drives you to do better. Most importantly, do your research and practise in front of the mirror, as you will look very different in videos.”
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