The Modern Chef, a blog by Elizabeth Allen

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd September 2011
My journey in the kitchen may have been a short one so far, but nevertheless interesting. A year ago, I'd never imagine I'd be a chef in a professional kitchen, let alone be part of this year's MasterChef 2011, doing cooking demonstrations, or writing my own website, "The Modern Chef". My family has always been passionate about cooking and more passionate about eating. My mother, a Singaporean, will never be caught anywhere without her home-made chilli, my dad, a ruthless food critic at heart, and my two younger sisters whom both love baking and getting involved in the kitchen. One of my earliest kitchen memories is being in the local woods with my parents, foraging for wild mushrooms or going "˜pick your own' and stuffing our faces with the fresh strawberries from the fields. After spending four years studying architecture in London, I wasn't feeling like I was using all my potential in what I truly loved doing, and that was cooking. I believe that food and architecture are very similar and that's one of the reasons it was such an easy transaction. Being an architect is all about teamwork, structuring, testing and design and creating a product someone will enjoy. I love food, art, architecture and how these disciplines intertwine to produce something out of the ordinary. On my very last day of university, last summer, I received a very exciting phone call from MasterChef accepting me to take part of their new series that aired this April.  I've never got involved with anything like this before, but the excitement of being able to express my creativity in front of judges seemed to suppress the overwhelming nervous feeling. The initial auditions went extremely well, I created a dish I had worked on for months de-constructing and re-constructing one of Singapore's national dishes, Chilli Crab. The dish was Crab Tortellini with Singapore Chilli Crab Sauce and Samphire Tempura, which impressed both John Torode and Gregg Wallace enough to give me a spot in the final twenty places. The MasterChef part of my journey was cut short however, just missing out a space in the last twelve places to Fiona and Sara. Sara made it through to the finals therefore cannot imagine losing out to a better contestant! Taking part on MasterChef itself was a great achievement, but the friends I've made during the show made the experience complete. MasterChef confirmed what I was lacking in, confidence. It's the guts to just start fresh in the New Year, with no qualifications in catering, or experience, and start furiously sending out letters to potential employers desperate to get started in what I got a taste for. I got a reply from a restaurant nearby where I live, and started work immediately a commis chef peeling potatoes and finding myself quickly moving upwards. The Modern Chef initially started out as a small project to document my projects, thoughts and creations in cooking, being a frustrated chef without much technical knowledge, I still wanted to show that I could achieve much more than reading a recipe. I'd see that The Modern Chef reaches out to anyone who loves photography or believes that food is beautiful whether it's simple street food, or as complicated as a dish in a Michelin starred restaurant. The blog itself contains local events I take part in, projects including private dining clubs, eating out or simply coming up with a recipe that excites me. All the photography on the website is my own, useful and extremely satisfying to create a dish and being able to show it to you all. I love being able to take recipes, take each component apart and rebuilding or refining it. I see my style of cooking influenced heavily by my background, of Singaporean and British cuisines, and merging the two, also described as Modern Singaporean cuisine. At present, I will be shortly attending Westminster Kingsway College to study Professional Catering Level 2 whilst working in the kitchen still. My career as a chef may only be beginning and there are a lot of lessons to be learnt, but follow The Modern Chef and you'll see it and myself flourish in no time. You can also follow me: on twitter @the_modernchef on Facebook on The Modern Chef website

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd September 2011

The Modern Chef, a blog by Elizabeth Allen