Lian is the latest chef to comment on how a traditional rendang is served. — Picture by Zuraneeza ZulkifliKUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Malaysian celebrity chef Sherson Lian described two MasterChef UK judges as “ignorant” about local cuisine after they booted Kuantan-born contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin from the show, triggering a Twitter food war.
The popular TV chef, who has presented Family Kitchen with Sherson on the Asian Food Channel and TV3’s 5 Rencah 5 Rasa, was shocked to hear Zaleha lost her place in the quarterfinals after the judges criticised the taste and texture of the chicken rendang accompanying her nasi lemak dish.
“Of course, chicken rendang cannot be cooked with a crispy skin. Traditionally, it is made by kampung people with kampung chicken. It’s definitely not beef stew falling-off-the-bone kind of thing,” Lian said.
MasterChef UK judges Torode and Wallace are swept up in a furious debate over Zaleha’s elimination. — Picture via Instagram.com/MasterChefUKOne of the two judges Gregg Wallace threw shade at the rendang accompanying Zaleha’s nasi lemak dish by saying the “the skin wasn’t crispy”.
The other judge, John Torode, had said the meat should be “really soft and falling apart”.
Lian had previously worked with Torode on screen when the latter hosted a 10-part series, John Torode’s Malaysian Adventure for the UK’s Good Food channel, which aired in 2015.
Torode met Lian during his travels around Malaysia, which was also when the latter cooked a nasi lemak dish for the Australian chef, who also encountered rendang on a visit to Langkawi during the series, raising doubts over his supposed misinterpretation of Zaleha’s dish.
“Also, how is it you can throw such ignorant comments without knowing about the dish? It’s only fair for the contestant participating in such a prestigious competition that you should know how to judge.
“You should have some knowledge about how rendang is presented. I’m quite curious that [Torode and Wallace] have criticised without knowing much about it,” Lian added.
Lian said the MasterChef UK judges should be in a better position to critique food prepared by the contestants.
“I’m not in a position to say who’s made a mistake here. But be it Torode or anyone else in a cooking show, particularly if they’re going to judge, should know what they’re judging,” said Lian, who was initially unaware of the drama that has unfolded over the past few days as he was away in Thailand.
“They need more insight about the cuisine before they throw such heavy judgment upon it. It doesn’t make sense.
“A rendang with crispy chicken skin? It’s like saying why porridge is not al dente.”
Kuantan-born Zaleha missed out on a place in the MasterChef UK semifinals. — Picture via YouTubeTorode and Wallace were unimpressed by Zaleha’s dish, but the pair’s comments raised serious doubts about a fair contest.
Lian’s comments come after Torode stirred fury on social media in an attempt to address the debate, but only added fuel to the fire by suggesting rendang was of Indonesian origin before signing off the Twitter message by saying “Namaste”, an expression native to India.
Malaysians took offence and accused Torode of being “embarrassing” and culturally “disrespectful”.
Lian’s thoughts on the rendang dish echo those of fellow Malaysian celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, better known as Chef Wan, who also defended Zaleha.
Speaking on Instagram this morning, Chef Wan expanded on previous comments that it was impossible to recreate chicken rendang with a crispy skin.
“Both judges obviously do not know how our signature dish should taste like much less how to prepare them,” he said in reference to Torode and Wallace.
“Not only (did) these two judges embarrass Zaleha, but ruined her participation.
“Due to the wrong reason, she was eliminated,” he posted with a photo of chicken rendang to his @_chefwan58 account.