MasterChef Singapore 2 finalists spill the beans
Four of the top 12 contestants from the new season of cooking competition show MasterChef Singapore, showing on Channel 5 and meWATCH on Sundays at 9.30pm, tell HEDY YANG (firstname.lastname@example.org) what's cooking in their lives
Jai Ganesh, 31, chef
Leaving the Singapore Armed Forces in 2019 after nine years of service to pursue his culinary career was not an easy choice for the former combat engineer officer.
He subsequently took up different jobs, including being a part-time Grab driver, morale patch designer and acrylic canvas painter, all the while planning for his online food delivery business, The Biryani Brothers.
It was launched at the start of the circuit breaker and turned out to be a success despite the industry's pandemic woes.
Mr Ganesh, who is currently honing his skills as a chef at French restaurant Kinou, said: "This was a time when (The Biryani Brothers) really bloomed and I finally saw the fruits of my labour. We were sold out every single day and kept having customers return. It was really overwhelming.
"While I didn't make a lot of money at the start, my priority was to get my food out there and let people try it. It was soon after that I started seeing good profits through some meticulous reorganisation."
However, he acknowledged the road ahead is going to be tough.
He said: "There are times when I question my decision of leaving the military, but I always get right back on track because I have a goal in mind.
"This is my hustle and I will not stop till I achieve my dreams of going to culinary school and eventually opening my own restaurant."
Mitchelle Chua, 46, Singapore Airlines in-flight manager
Thanks to the pandemic, the veteran flight attendant had "some downtime" which allowed her to grab the opportunity to take voluntary no-pay leave last November and participate in MasterChef Singapore.
Having been employed by SIA for almost 23 years and taken on the role of air sommelier when she was an stewardess, one of Ms Chua's food ambitions is to create new dishes for SIA's first-class cabin menu.
She said: "I would love to be recognised as a chef but it is not my priority. I want to wear many hats and not just a chef's hat.
"I hope to give back to SIA with my passion for food and cooking and be able to contribute to its fine existing menu from renowned chefs all over the world.
"There are many talented cooks among the SIA cabin crew, so I believe there will be more cabin crew joining Singapore MasterChef in the future."
Danial Khalis Aziz, 30, operations manager
He had applied for the first season of MasterChef Singapore in 2018, but did not get called for an audition.
On the second last day of the registration period, he pushed and encouraged his mother to sign up, which she did later that night, "and the rest is history".
Madam Diana Ismail, 62, ended up finishing in seventh place.
She was persistent in getting Mr Danial to apply for Season 2, but he was hesitant as his wife was heavily pregnant with their daughter at the time.
He said: "My wife knew I was holding back on my dream to enter MasterChef for the sake of our family. She then told me to go do it for our child. So I'm dedicating this journey to them."
He added: "The first thing my mother said was, 'Do not embarrass me and cut yourself on MasterChef'. Knife cutting skills and table/bench cleanliness were some of her pet peeves."
Now that her son is in the top 12, Madam Diana expects him to "go far" and surpass her ranking.
Mr Danial said: "My family and friends would say hands down the Queen, my mother, is the (better cook). She has many years of experience under her belt. Though she may be lacking in the aspects of plating and creativity, she wins in the areas of tasting."
Mr Danial's most memorable food moment with Madam Diana is when they baked his wedding cake together, and he hopes to publish a cookbook with her someday and open a cooking school catering to those in financial need.
Inch Chua, 32, singer-songwriter
The local indie musician may have dated Singapore chef Woo Wai Leong after he won MasterChef Asia in 2015, but he was not the one who set her on the MasterChef path.
Having developed a passion for cooking at a young age under the influence of her mother and grandmothers, Ms Chua takes pride in being able to whip up a variety of cuisines (Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Indonesian, Thai, Peranakan, Japanese and Western) and often cooks for her family, friends and even ex-boyfriend during their relationship.
Ms Chua said: "It's a known fact that most chefs actually eat poorly because of their schedule, so that's where I come in - I usually feed the chef."
The former couple are still good friends and she said he was "surprised" when she told him she joined MasterChef - also a popular reaction among her fans who probably can't believe she is just as skilled in the kitchen as she is with a mic and guitar on stage.
Viewing cooking as something private and personal and the kitchen as a place for her to release stress, Ms Chua said being on MasterChef Singapore is the first time she is sharing "another part of me that is pretty precious to the world".
Not that this is a big secret to her music peers.
She said: "The arts and music collide so much with food, and I think most of my favourite meals are shared among the musicians. So I think a lot of them do know my palate, my taste in food, how critical I can be. So I don't think they are that surprised (to see me on the show)."