MasterChef UK contestant in centre of 'Rendanggate': Judges made right call to cut me

MasterChef UK contestant in centre of 'Rendanggate': Judges made right call to cut me
Former MasterChef UK contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin.
PHOTO: BBC Studios

Four months after the Rendanggate controversy erupted, former MasterChef UK contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin has moved on, insisting there are no hard feelings.

The Malaysia-born, Bristol-based housewife thinks the MasterChef UK judges made the right call to eliminate her in the quarter-finals of the 14th season of the popular reality TV cooking competition.

In that episode, which aired in April in Britain, chicken rendang, a classic Malaysian dish, was in the international spotlight when Ms Zaleha's rendition was criticised for not being "crispy" enough.

MasterChef UK judge Gregg Wallace complained of the dish: "I like your rendang flavour, there is a coconut sweetness.

"However, the chicken skin isn't crispy. It can't be eaten and all the sauce is on the skin so I can't eat it."

The incident quickly drew sharp criticism from viewers across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, who rallied together in defence of her.

Ms Zaleha, 48, told The New Paper in a phone interview from Malaysia: "I received thousands of messages from people saying not to worry about it and that they are behind me all the way."

She admitted: "At first I was disappointed that I did not get further in the competition, but now I have come to accept the judges' decision.

"There were better contestants in that season, and I have chosen to move on."

MasterChef UK (Series 14) premieres on Aug 30 at 8.20pm on BBC Lifestyle (StarHub TV Ch 432) and BBC Player.

She now runs the Malaysian Kitchen Supper Club in Bristol with two friends, providing private catering and food delivery services.

It allows her to feed her love of cooking Malaysian cuisine without the added hassle of running a restaurant business, said Ms Zaleha.

She also has an upcoming cookbook - a collection of traditional Malaysian recipes from her family and her hometown in Pahang - which she hopes to publish by the end of this year.

Last week, Singapore-born Sashikumar Cheliah was crowned champion of MasterChef Australia, once again putting South-east Asian cuisine on the world map.

Ms Zaleha, who has two daughters aged 22 and 11, said: "It is amazing that he won and I am so proud that he brought South-east Asian cooking to a whole new level.

"Competitions like this definitely push our cooking onto the world stage and I have full confidence that it will continue to go much further."

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.

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