In June, seven of Singapore’s most well-regarded food bloggers with the support of SingTel had issued an invite to Chef Ramsay, to help determine if our hawker food has what it takes to match up to the prestigious standards of the world renowned Michelin guide. This invite was issued amidst concerns about the future of Singapore’s hawker heritage, with fewer picking up the craft from the current generation of hawkers. It also aims to address the debate among foodies whether our hawkers are as talented as Michelin-starred chefs and if international recognition would boost the hawker trade.
Chef Ramsay accepted the challenge and arrived in Singapore, learning from three of Singapore’s most famous hawker names (Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, 328 Katong Laksa and Jumbo Seafood Restaurant) before squaring them off in the highly anticipated SingTel Hawker Heroes culinary challenge. The contest was held at Newton Food Centre where more than 1000 members of the public, including excited Singaporeans who started queuing from 1am the night before, witnessed the exciting culinary showdown and sampled chicken rice, laksa and chilli crab prepared by Chef Ramsay and the hawkers.
Diners were then asked to vote for their preferred version of each dish. The Singapore hawker heroes narrowly edged-out Chef Ramsay in the live poll by 6 per cent of the total vote in the closely contested battle. In each dish category, Tian Tian Chicken Rice won by 6 per cent, 328 Katong Laksa by 19 per cent and Chef Ramsay’s version of Chilli Crab triumphed by 5 per cent.
Here are quotes from the key figures of Singtel Hawker Heroes Challenge
Mr Allen Lew, SingTel’s CEO, Group Digital Life, said: “At SingTel, we seek to bring joy to our customers through amazing experiences. We are thrilled to bring Chef Ramsay to Singapore for a contest that rallied the nation and showcased the very best of Singapore hawker cuisine. Food is such an important part of our way of life. Through the SingTel Hawker Heroes Challenge, we hope to inspire the next generation of chefs to carry on our nation’s proud hawker traditions.”
Chef Ramsay said: “It’s been phenomenal to see how passionate the people of Singapore are about their hawker fare. The hawkers have impressed me with their ability to whip-up dishes with such amazing flavours. Now that I’ve experienced the best of Singapore cuisine, I can say without doubt the people of Singapore have much to be proud of – authentic, genuine, simple food, that is of amazing quality and full of flavour.”
Mdm Foo Kui Lian, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, said: “I enjoyed teaching Chef Ramsay the art of making chicken rice. Although his version was very unique, it was still very appetising. The SingTel Hawker Heroes challenge was a wonderful celebration of the good food we have here in Singapore.”
Mr Ang Kiam Meng, Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, said: “The contest was a great way to recognise the skills and talent of our local hawkers. Chilli crab is an iconic Singapore dish that takes many years to master and we are glad that it was featured in the contest. We are confident that the people of Singapore will continue to support our hawkers and keep our unique food culture alive.”
Mr Ryan Koh, 328 Katong Laksa, said: “We are grateful to our friends, family and supporters for voting for us, and to SingTel for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to challenge a world famous chef like Gordon Ramsay. It was a truly amazing experience!”
The event was packed with great fanfare for Chef Ramsay, with supporters following him to the three different Hawker Heroes to learn how to prepare and cook our local hawker dishes. While I didn’t manage to follow Chef Ramsay around the three Singtel Hawker Heroes locations nor the final square off at Newton Hawker Centre, I saw the photos and live social media coverage on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook from my fellow social media enthusiasts. It was a great publicity event for everyone of them involved. The ultimate winners were the Singapore Food Lovers for the Singtel Hawker Heroes Challenge and I am happy that our Hawker Food, the true Heroes of our local food, culture and heritage can stand up and be proud of them! Our unique local Singapore Hawker Food has faced challenges and losses over the past few years, such as the retirement of the older generation Hawker Heroes. Some of our local food culture had not been able to pass down, some were able to. I sincerely hope that from Singtel Hawker Heroes Challenge, we are able to help them (Our Hawker Heroes) receive the recognition and respect that they rightfully deserve more.
Let’s carry on from here and continue to support our Hawker Food, traditions, heritage and culture. They are our real Hawker Heroes!
Information and details courtesy of Singtel Singapore.