SINGAPORE — Tensions were high at Newton Circus Food Centre today (July 7) as Michelin-star chef Gordon Ramsay battled three Singapore hawkers in the much anticipated Singapore versus Ramsay cook-off.
The crowd that greeted Ramsay at Maxwell Food Centre after his arrival in Singapore on Friday was put to shame as hundreds of fans queued outside Newton as early as 11am to get a slice of the action – and a taste of the dishes up for the vote.
At about 9pm, the results of SingTel’s Hawker Heroes Challenge were announced, and the winners were the local hawkers. Ramsay lost by 6 per cent of the total vote.
Ryan Koh from 328 Katong Laksa beat Ramsay by the biggest margin — 19 per cent of the votes — while Foo Kui Lian from Tian Tian Chicken Rice won by 6 per cent. Ramsay’s chilli crab beat Jumbo Seafood Restaurant’s Ang Kiam Meng’s dish by 5 per cent.
There were 1,000 voters, and each cast their vote for all three dishes.
Ramsay accepted defeat graciously, hugging Foo of Tian Tian Chicken Rice stall.
Speaking to the media after the results were announced, Ramsay likened his overall score to his old school report card: “Not bad, but can do better”.
Ramsay said it was “tough to get up to speed in 48 hours to how good these dishes are”, and said that the most difficult dish to prepare was the laksa because there are “so many variations”.
Ramsay also said he was in absolute awe of the hawkers, and with chefs often reluctant to share their recipes with one another, he was also impressed by the culture of passing on their unique culinary tradition from generation to generation.
He added that he was humbled by how the hawkers welcomed him into their kitchens and taught him to cook
“Chefs are obsessed with other chefs beating them,” he said, “but to see the hawkers’ generosity and the way they treated me inside their hawker stalls where I’m the distraction; I’m the one turning their world upside down — and for them to still be that gratifying and teach me how to cook their food, it’s humbling.”
Speaking on Singapore’s culinary scene, he commented: “There’s a repertoire untapped here. These stores don’t look that glamorous, but honestly, I’ve eaten in some fine dining establishments since I’ve been here and the food is not a patch on what these guys are serving.
“No table cloths, no fancy wine cellars, no 25 waiters hovering over you… if you want the real food in Singapore get yourself to a hawker stall – that’s my message tonight.”
He added: “Someone mentioned earlier. ‘This is about your brand’. It’s got nothing to do with my brand. This for me was about highlighting how good I’ve always thought Singaporean hawker food is.”
Ramsay is “actively looking” to open a restaurant in Singapore and “cannot wait” to do so. “And if you think I’m going to bring some fancy, poncey French food to Singapore, there would be a riot,” he laughed.