The local foodie community has united and reacted in fits of frenzy following the announcement that the renowned (or infamous, depending on your appreciation for the guy :)) British celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, has officially accepted the “Hawker Heroes” challenge.
In case you’ve been too caught up with the haze and hail in Singapore and are absolutely clueless what this is all about, “Hawker Heroes” is a challenge issued to the Michelin-starred chef to take on Singapore’s top three hawkers in a culinary contest.
Hawker centres are undoubtedly the pride and joy of most, if not all, Singaporeans – so it‘s no surprise that we see the patriotism and support for our fellow hawker aunties and uncles sounding loud and strong:
I’ve had the luck of getting a reservation at his Michelin Star restaurant, Pétrus, in London last year and the food was just divine to say the least. The perfectly pan-fried mackerel and nicely done hanger steak was enough to wow me over – but the dessert (the chocolate sphere with milk ice cream and honeycomb) was definitely the one that sealed the deal!
The video doesn’t do it quite the justice it deserves, but upon pouring the molten chocolate sauce over the sphere surrounded by the milk ice cream, the chocolate layer crumbles and peels away to reveal the honeycomb inside. Even watching this process was an amazing experience in itself!
Drool and hunger pangs aside, in the battle of Ramsay versus Hawker Heroes, here are my completely objective and independent views as to how this challenge will play out. This is based on the criteria of taste of food, adaptability to work environment, customer service, and proficiency in vulgarity.
I would also like to add a disclaimer that these criteria are 100% invented by yours truly and any resemblance to the actual judging criteria is purely coincidental.
1. Taste of food – Chef Ramsay 0 Hawker Heroes 1
Well, this is highly dependent on who the panel of judges would be, but I have my bets on our local hawker heroes.
These guys have been doing what they do best for so many years. Although Ramsay proclaims that he is certain “that people will like my version better”, it’s clear to all Singaporeans who know our distinguished taste buds and fine palates for hawker fare better.
Sorry chef, you may be able to throw in some oysters and lobsters in our char kway teow, but nothing beats the perfectly cooked and slightly bloody ham (cockles) whose smell may make you squeamish.
2. Adaptability to work environment – Chef Ramsay 0 Hawker Heroes 1
Hot, stuffy, smelly and cramped…No, I’m not talking about the state of my bedroom without air conditioning, but the work environment that our hawker heroes toil in to serve their local fare day in and day out.
Compared to the fancy and well equipped kitchens that Ramsay must be used to working in, this one’s a sure win for our Singapore hawkers!
3. Customer service – Chef Ramsay 0 Hawker Heroes 1
While I haven’t been served by Ramsay himself, his attitude towards the contestants on Hell’s Kitchen and Hotel Hell doesn’t leave much room for imagining what kind of service I will be getting from him.
Factoring the terribly humid conditions that he’ll be cooking in, he might just reach his boiling point even before the temperature hits 100 degrees Celsius.
From hurling vulgarities to possibly barking at me to leave the queue if I make as much as a request for “not so much chili, no spring onions and more pork lard please”, I’d rather much be served by our Singapore aunties and uncles!
Yes, even if there is a much longer queue, thank you very much.
4. Proficiency in vulgarity – Chef Ramsay 1 Hawker Heroes 0
Ramsay, you win. Hands down. Even our local hokkien vulgarities can’t quite measure up to the amount of censoring that goes into his programmes when they’re played in Singapore, understandably so with all that incessant swearing. Unless he picks up the equivalent in hokkien as well – then it’ll be one hell of an epic home run!
I mean, just look at the parodies circulating online:
What I wouldn’t give to see a battle of wits between Chef Ramsay and our local hawkers. Remember that one time someone actually stood up to him?
Well, I guess it honestly could go either way, although my heart (and vote) definitely goes towards our local hawker heroes!