An Afternoon With The MasterChef Pinoy Edition Top14!

A nationwide search has brought together the 14 best Pinoy cooks coming from different backgrounds and of various ages. These culinary hopefuls are gearing up for tougher cooking challenges with all of them eyeing the same coveted prize – Being hailed the first ever Pinoy MasterChef and bagging the whopping P1 million grand prize!

Last December 6, a pocket presscon for a select group of media personalities was held at Vermont Park Subd., Antipolo, where the Top 14 MasterChef Pinoy Edition participants are currently housed.

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Not only was I able to interview some of the contenders, I even got to taste some of the dishes which they prepared for us as well.

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Tasty Tuna Cheese with Pineapple prepared by Tolits is a great appetizer. The bland taste of the tuna combined with the cheese’s saltiness with the added sweetness of the pineapple compliment each other.

Tolits (aka Sorsogon’s Chief Cook of Police) wanted to take up Fine Arts in college but was not able to because his family couldn’t afford it, and it was only in cooking where could express his passion for art. He eventually joined the police force and now aspires to put up a small restaurant to support his family.

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This Leche Flan prepared by Mac is to die for! It’s made with native eggs, calamansi and milk. Quite similar to that of Crème Brûlée – rich custard, sweet with a contrasting flavor of acidity and sourness in it.

Mac (aka Kitchen Mac-Kulit of Tarlac) is striving to work hard for his family whose marriage and relationship with his children ultimately suffered while he worked as a seaman abroad. Now separated from his wife, Mac has returned home for good to take care of his kids.

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Since Ronnel is from Pampanga, he whipped up a Pork Sisig dish using ground pork, chopped liver, onions, a dollop of mayonnaise and chilies. This baby has got a pretty strong kick! Good thing I love spicy food, otherwise, I wouldn’t have eaten it.

Ronnel (aka Boy Labong of Pampanga) grows vegetables in his backyard and cooks over an open
fire using twigs. His family survives on income from his humble sari-sari store business.

About after 40 minutes, we transferred to the next group where these 2 lovely ladies were waiting.

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Being able to travel to Italy, this Italian inspired Potato Gnocchi (pronounced “nyoki”) was Ivory’s dish. Made of sticky mashed potatoes placed on top of a mildly spicy pureed squash and pimiento sauce is just bursting with all sorts of flavors. Whichever sauce you go for works lovely with the Gnocchi.

Ivory (aka Kusina Fashionista) is a nurse that has always been pushed by her parents to become a doctor. Her love for cooking proved potent enough that she abandoned the medical field to pursue her culinary passion.

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After trying out an assortment of bold-flavored dishes, I gobbled down Myra’s Mango Crepe effortlessly. I’m a sucker for mangoes and white chocolate. Eating this was an absolute treat!

Myra (aka Chef Accountant) is a working class mom who wants to be recognized as an excellent cook. The Chef Accountant of Muntinlupa first worked her way around the kitchen when she was still little and cooked for her siblings and parents.

Our last group of interviewees were Lillybeth, Melissa and Carla.

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I love squash soup and I was overjoyed upon tasting Lilibeth’s Creamy Squash Soup because the flavor was spot-on-delicious! It was blended with celery and chicken stock topped with bacon and fresh basil. Not your typical squash soup, I tell ya! It’s a squash party in my mouth!

Lilibeth – (aka Nanay-Kasambahay ng Isabela) has struggled to make ends meet as a housemaid ever since she separated from her live-in partner and the father of her two children. She joined the kusina-serye to provide a better life for her and her family.

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Carla’s Triple Choco Moist Cake was really delicious and… well… moist (obviously!). It was baked to yummy perfection. Coming from someone like me who isn’t that fond of chocolate, saying it tastes wonderful means lots! I can actually eat more of this!

Carla (aka Negosyante Kusinera of Bulacan), married at such a young age that she needed to learn how to cook for her family. She refined her skills in the kitchen and eventually began accepting orders from friends to prepare crispy pata and roast chicken, which are both her specialties.

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Mommy Melissa’s Chicken Pot Roast falls right smack in the “comfort food” category. Eating it brings me back to my childhood days. As a matter of fact, I made my own version of her Crustless Beef Pie a few days after it was aired and featured on a recent episode of MasterChef. Mommy Melissa’s cooking illustrates home cooking at its best.

Melissa (aka the Cooking Momma) at 51, she is the oldest among the finalists and is regarded by the group as their mother figure. Will the considerate Cooking Momma give way to others or will she fight for the grand prize until the end?

I’m sure the other finalists which I wasn’t able to interview (but was able to meet) cooked exceptional dishes too. They are…

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Betty (aka Loyal Kusinera of Cebu) who has been working as a house help since she was 18 to provide for her siblings and take them to school. Her employers, who have treated her as family for 15 years now, have been enthusiastic about her stint in the kusina-serye.

Cons (aka Kitchen Siren of San Juan) who once auditioned in “Pinoy Dream Academy” to become a recording artist. A disease, however, damaged her voice and deterred her from reaching her dreams. This set off her love affair with cooking and has since then vowed to master cooking.

Gian (aka The Biba Kusinera of Davao) has struggled with his own insecurities and his family’s expectations from him as the first born son. Gian, who is also the youngest finalist in the competition at 20, grew up believing his father never approved of him because of his homosexuality.

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JR (aka Rakistang Kusinero) winning the Pinoy MasterChef title also means winning his dream wedding with his girlfriend. The Rakistang Kusinero of Benguet also wants to use the cash prize to support his child from a former partner whom he has not seen in years.

Maureen (aka The Loving Nanay of Kusina) joined “MasterChef” to help in paying for her two kids’ medical bills. Both of them suffer from G6PD, a fatal disease that could cause hemorrhage to an affected person who eats certain foods he is allergic to. Maureen’s husband is their family’s sole breadwinner as she intends to look after the kids.

Reggie (aka Romantic Kusinero of Laguna) who admits he always gets dumped by girls. He says that he wants a girlfriend who is not so good at cooking so he could satiate her with his dishes and love.

Being a homecook myself with no formal culinary education just like them, my brief yet very engrossing conversations with these lucky finalists, endeared these MasterChef hopefuls to me. I felt their love and passion for cooking and their fiery determination to become the 1st MasterChef Pinoy Edition winner. These cooks surely can conjure some serious magic in the kitchen serving soulful, classic, healthy and flavorful dishes.

Who will be hailed the 1st Pinoy MasterChef? Watch the Top 14 cooks fight their way to the top on “MasterChef Pinoy Edition” – Mondays to Fridays at 10:30AM on ABS-CBN.

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For more updates on the program, LIKE them on Facebook, follow @MasterChefPHL on Twitter and visit www.masterchefph.tv

*Individual and group photos of the contestants are courtesy of ABS-CBN.

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