Derek Cheong shares his plans after winning the second season of MasterChef Singapore.
Derek Cheong, winner of MasterChef Singapore Season Two
“Ambitious” is usually what people would say when you reveal your dream of owning a fine dining Michelin-starred restaurant that’s on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
For MasterChef Singapore winner Derek Cheong, it’s all about showcasing who he is on a plate. “I want my restaurant to feature a degustation/tasting menu that focuses on seasonal premium ingredients,” he says.
Viewers had a glimpse of what his future menus might be during the final episode of the competition that aired on Channel 5, when he prepared a three-course meal based on the four seasons. The three judges complimented his detailed approach to each dish which showcased wellbalanced flavours with an added touch of refinement.
No longer just a dream, the 23-year-old is well on his way to fulfilling his plans. He has put his studies and even his fine dining business Twelve Flavours on hold while he works as a commis chef at Mirazur, the famed three-Michelinstarred French restaurant which has opened a three-month pop-up at Mandala Club until 11 August.
We caught up with Cheong to find out more about his influences, cooking style and his hard-fought journey to success.
How did you learn to cook?
My culinary journey started when I was about 10 years old. I followed my parents to their hawker stall and messed it up!
I am self-taught. I watch a lot of cooking videos on YouTube. I also read a lot of cookbooks from Michelinstarred chefs such as Andre Chiang’s
Octaphilosophy, Grant Achatz’s Alinea, Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, and many more.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Funky, playful, explosive.
What do you normally cook when at home? If you don’t cook, what do you normally (takeaway)?
I don’t usually cook for myself. I only cook for other people. It’s quite funny because after hosting my private dining service Twelve Flavours, I would cook instant noodles, Myojo Ramen Char Mee.
If I were to tabao, it would usually be chicken or duck rice.
What does it take to become a good chef?
It is important to be mentally strong as you must be able to handle pressure and thrive in intense situations. To be a great chef, you need to have a little bit of madness inside your head.
Is there a chef that you look up to and want to work with in the future?
Definitely all the chefs that I have bought cookbooks from!
What are your plans in the next few years? Currently you’ve put your studies on hold.
I plan to resume studies in August 2022. Until then, I am looking to work in a fine dining restaurant to upgrade my skills. Concurrently, I am working on my own kombucha business with my childhood friends. In the next few years, I will probably focus on my kombucha business, private dining or a restaurant that does creative cocktails and food pairing with kombucha.