All systems go
Astro rolls out its line-up of judges for reality TV cooking programme Masterchef Malaysia.
WITH barely two weeks left to the premiere of Astro Ria’s MasterChef Malaysia, viewers get to find out more about the panel of judges, the format and the 40 finalists of the local version of the popular reality TV programme. The competitive cooking reality show, based on MasterChef US, MasterChef Australia and Junior MasterChef Australia, will feature five judges – Chef Johari Edrus, 55; Chef Priya Menon, 53; Chef Yahaya Hassan, 49; Chef Zubir Md Zain, 45; and Chef Mohd Nadzri Redzuawan, 29. Besides playing hosts, the judges will evaluate participants’ capabilities and progress throughout the competition.
Those familiar with the MasterChef series may find this a little odd – why so many judges?
Although they are five judges in total, only three will be featured in each episode.
Astro Vice President (Malay language business) Khairul Anwar Salleh said this addition was a conscious decision. “We started off with three judges but added two more to spice up to the show. The judges will be rotated weekly as each judge has different strengths. Some judges make excellent coaches but are camera shy. It is difficult to find a chef who excels in hosting, teaching and judging a reality TV cooking competition! With five chefs to take turns, there’s a certain amount of flexibility and we can showcase the best of their talents.”
Fans of the series should also know that a few homegrown chefs will also appear as celebrity judges ... but no clues were given as to who they may be.
Khairul did, however, explain that the panel of judges was selected through an audition process, based on their credentials and experience.
Chef Johari has over 35 years experience in the culinary field and is the former president of Chef Association of Malaysia. He is Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Faculty of Tourism & Hospitality’s fellow adjunct and culinary advisor at UiTM, Taylor’s College and Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU) University College.
Chef Priya holds an advanced diploma in law! The former Indian chef at Carcosa Seri Negara is author of several books including Health Travel Malaysia, Medical Travel Malaysia, Fun With Food and My Kitchen To Yours. She also contributes write-ups for The Star’s food portal kuali.com.
Chef Yahya’s credentials include being a chef at MAS’s flight catering and KL-based Equatorial Hotel and Singgahsana Hotel. He has lectured in colleges such as KDU University College, Sunway College and Flamingo College.
Chef Zubir earned his diploma in Chef Training in 1988 and has worked as executive sous chef at KL’s Le Meridien Hotel. The former UiTM lecturer trained under renowned Swiss chef Anton Mosimann in London.
Chef Mohd Nadzri, is the son of famous Chef Wan. He holds a degree in Culinary Arts and Hotel Catering and has worked at Ristorante Babbo in New York. Chef Nadzri, fondly known as Chef Riz, owns contemporary world cuisine restaurant On The Table, World Cuisine at Solaris Dutamas in KL.
Khairul said: “Their presence will have a positive impact on the show. Finalists will be able to take this opportunity to gain as much culinary knowledge and learn new techniques to improve their cooking skills.”
MasterChef Malaysia hopes to inspire and provide training to both experienced and new chefs alike. It also offers budding chefs opportunities to step up their careers and achieve new aspirations. The grand prize winner will walk away with RM100,000 and an opportunity to publish a recipe book.
There is no denying that Chef Johari and his team feel some pressure to live up to the expectations of top-rated shows MasterChef US and MasterChef Australia. Viewers will surely compare them to respected Australian judges Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris.
Besides having those big shoes to fill, Chef Johari’s biggest concern is how he will appear on screen. “I am a chef by training and not an extrovert. It can be a challenge to host a show. It might take some time for me to warm up in front of the camera and interact with finalists,” said the soft spoken Chef Johari, who is more at home in front of a stove than on the set of a TV show.
After conducting a month-long nationwide search in May, 40 participants were selected based on their potential and passion in the kitchen.
The contestants come from a wide mix, including actors, dentists, fashion designers, university students and a rubber tapper!
They will be whittled down to the Top 24 and at the end of the season, only one will be crowned MasterChef.
When asked about the finalists, Chef Johari said: “Our expectations are high but not too stringent because these contestants are amateurs. There is also the responsibility of bringing these amateur cooks to a higher level, of polishing them into gems who can succeed. As for the judging, we are looking for candidates who have a flair for cooking techniques and presentation plus the willingness to learn.” n MasterChefMalaysia premieres on Oct 22 at 9pm over Astro Ria (Ch 104). Masterclass will be aired on Star World (Astro Ch 711) from Oct 27 (9pm) with a repeat on Astro Ria beginning Nov 4 (9pm).