Gordon Ramsay Versus Singapore: The Great Cook-Off

Michelin-starred Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay was in Singapore last weekend to participate in a cook-off against our Singaporean hawkers for three iconic local dishes at the Newton Circus Food Centre. I went there to take a peep. Read on, for how Ramsey fared.


At Newton Circus Food Centre

I checked the time on my iPhone. It was already six o’clock in the evening. With bated breath, I stepped out of the Newton MRT station and made my way to the Newton Food Centre.

When I arrived, what instantly struck me was the large crowd. I could barely move amongst the throngs of people. Gosh, I didn’t know there would be so many eager beavers wanting to see celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay!

But I managed to squeeze through the 5,000 or so fans to get a reasonably good vantage point. The cook-off had already started, but it would still be a long way till completion and the announcing of the eventual results.

Gordon Ramsay in Singapore and his rivals

Ramsay has written countless cookbooks and fronted well-known television shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef USA, and now he was in Singapore for the SingTel Hawker Heroes content – as a competitor himself.

Ramsey was currently pitting his cooking skills against the top Singapore hawkers chefs for three famous local dishes – chicken rice, laksa and chilli crab.

The hawkers competing against him were Mr Ang Kiam Meng from Jumbo Seafood, Mdm Foo Kui Lian from Tian Tian Chicken Rice, and Mr Ryan Koh from 328 Katong Laksa. The hawkers and their dishes been selected through earlier rounds of public voting.

The Taste Test

I watched with interest as people took their turns to collect the food and vote online, for their favourite cook. I hadn’t joined the queue so I would not be getting the dishes to taste myself – or so I had thought.


Taste testing samples

I was really amazed at the eagerness of some fans – who had joined the line from as early as one o’clock in the morning – just to get redemption coupons to try Ramsey’s food. 1,000 lucky fans had managed to do so.

I carefully looked at their reactions, as the people tasted the dishes. They ranged from sheer amazement and delight to shaking of their heads and pulling funny faces.

Some of the people really enjoyed Ramsay’s cooking, while others thought that our local hawkers were more deserving winners.

As one of the taste testers said, “I actually preferred Ramsay’s chicken rice and laksa and voted for it. I really enjoyed the creaminess in Ramsay’s laksa and the chicken rice was so tasty.”

Another person screwed up her face when she tasted Ramsey’s chilli crab and commented, “It’s quite sour!” She was referring to the spicy sauce that this famous local dish was bathed in.

Tasting the dishes myself

As I mingled with the fans, some even graciously offered me a taste of the dishes, so I was fortunately able to try all of Ramsey’s dishes. I counted myself lucky.

Chicken Rice


Ramsay’s Chicken Rice

I thought that Ramsay’s version was actually very interesting. I can certainly see why some people had selected it. The rice was pretty fragrant and had a rather interesting flavour that I couldn’t quite place. At the same time, it wasn’t too oily. The chicken was also very moist and tender.


Ramsay's Laksa

Ramsay’s Laksa

The 328 Katong laksa was more flavourful. But on the other hand, Ramsay’s version was pretty good too. His laksa soup was not as tasty, but it was quite creamy and the amount of chilli inside the dish was just right – not too overpowering.

Chilli Crab

I must say that Ramsay’s version of this dish wasn’t quite what I had expected. When I tasted it, I found it quite sour and seemed to have a hint of vinegar added to it.

But most Singaporeans probably didn’t agree with my taste buds, because when the results came through, Ramsay actually won for his version of the chilli crab. I found this really surprising.

Two-One to Singapore

When the results were tabulated, the result was 2-1 to Singapore. The local hawkers had won the competition for their chicken rice (by 6%) and the laksa (by 19%), but Ramsay’s chilli crab had won (by a narrow 5% margin) so this prevented a clean sweep for our Singaporean chefs.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Ramsey had said that the most difficult item to cook had been the laksa because “there were so many different variations – the tofu, the coconut, the shrimp and the paste.” He had changed his laksa recipe at the last minute too.

I thought that the close margin of results reflected a very admirable effort by Gordon Ramsey in Singapore, considering that he had only a mere two days to study the recipes and beat the Singaporean chefs at their own game.

Read about the reflections to this cook-off.

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