KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — MasterChef UK appears to have denied that judge Gregg Wallace criticised a Malaysian contestant’s rendang for not having crispy chicken skin, despite footage of the episode online.
A spokesperson for the BBC show said at no point did Wallace mention the chicken rendang prepared by Zaleha Kadir Olpin should have crispy skin.
His dubious critique of the curry, along with comments from co-star John Torode, saw Zaleha, 48, booted from MasterChef UK at the quarterfinals stage.
“Gregg wasn’t suggesting that the dish should traditionally have crispy skin — he was saying that he couldn’t experience the flavours of the dish as it was presented,” a MasterChef UK spokesperson said.
“MasterChef has always celebrated international cuisine and on this occasion our judges’ comments were relevant to the dish that had been cooked on the show.”
The statement added that Zaleha didn’t leave the competition because the chicken skin of her rendang wasn’t crispy, but she went out because other cooks were better.
For her quarterfinal entry, Zaleha prepared a nasi lemak with chicken rendang and prawn sambal.
Wallace told the Kuantan-born chef in his feedback “the chicken skin isn’t crispy, it can’t be eaten.”
MasterChef UK seemingly suggest Wallace’s comments merely observe the chicken skin isn’t crispy rather than saying it should have been.
Their rebuttal comes after a day which saw debate over the Zaleha’s chicken rendang brought into the national spotlight, even drawing a response from prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell weighed in on the matter along with Malaysia’s celebrity chefs Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, better known as Chef Wan, and Sherson Lian.
Chef Wan vehemently defended Zaleha, writing on Instagram about Torode and Wallace: “Not only (did) these two judges embarrass Zaleha, but ruined her participation.”
He added: “Due to the wrong reason, she was eliminated.”
Lian, who has worked with Torode on a 10-part series John Torode’s Malaysian Adventure for the UK’s Good Food channel, called the judges’ criticisms “ignorant”.
“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 told Malay Mail.
Lian also said Torode was wrong in his assessment to say the chicken should be “really soft and falling apart”.
“Rendang is traditionally made by the kampung people with kampung chicken. It’s definitely not beef stew falling-off-the-bone kind of thing,” the TV chef added.
“Everything still holds intact because if it falls off the bone the whole dish is going to be bones and flesh.”