SINGAPORE: If you have been to the MasterChef Dining & Bar at the InterContinental Singapore this past week, you would know that culinary legend and celebrated chef Marco Pierre White has been overseeing personalities Reynold Poernomo, Audra Morrice, Woo Wai Leong and Luca Manfe.
The team from the popular MasterChef TV franchise has been serving up items like octopus, ravioli, beef shortrib and cheesecake mousse at the 15 day pop-up event, which ends on Dec 9.
While a gastronomical cornucopia of dishes is on offer, none of them is prepared using a wok - the round-bottomed cooking vessel which White, who has been dubbed the godfather of modern cooking, was game to try for the very first time, exclusively for Channel NewsAsia.
“I regard Cantonese cuisine as one of the great cuisines of the world, like how I regard French cuisine as one of the great cuisines of the world,” the 54-year-old chef said, after a hands-on experience in the Chinese kitchen at InterContinental. He whipped up his first ever geoduck dish with XO sauce, because he really likes the "texture" of the clams.
“And what’s amazing about Cantonese cuisine - and people might not realise this - it’s very, very, very, intelligent cooking. It also takes great skill. Like today … my first time with a wok. It was like cooking on top of a volcano. It’s quite scary actually.
“I was asked if I wanted to use a pan, and I just thought no. I want the whole experience, no matter how scary it is. I want that experience. You know something? I always watch the chef on the wok, it’s like watching a ballerina on stage."
White is known for many things - he was the youngest chef to ever acquire three Michelin stars (at 33), he is seen as a game-changer for British cuisine and was the former boss and mentor of Gordon Ramsay.
But expertise in Chinese food is not on his CV. Yet he considers it "one of my favourite cuisines".
And what White really likes about the cuisine is that it is highly technical.
“I also like the fact that it’s very simple at the same time … and that it’s served hot,” he said with a grin. “Generous portions - I like that. And I like that sort of spontaneity of that cuisine. I also like going to Asia Grand (at Odeon Towers), and having my dim sum and seeing all those little things made by hand. So beautiful.”
It is also the cuisine he feels does not get the credit it deserves.
“If you meet a Cantonese chef who has gotten up there, and (then you think of) the amount of hours he’s had to put in to the kitchen, to learn all those techniques, to learn all that method, that understanding … that speed they work at, and that touch. It’s about touch, it’s not about the recipe.
"They make it look effortless. I mean genius! I haven't got that talent. Me on the wok, I don’t make it look effortless. Me on the stove with a pan, maybe. But not with a wok.”