Amanda, Winner of Top Chef Appetizer

One of the contestants for this year’s Top Chef Competition is Amanda Tan, a first year first semester student pursuing Psychological Science. For this competition, she had prepared an extraordinary four course meal for the judges. However, the main focus of this interview is on her scrumptious appetiser.

Her dish is a mini 3-way egg muffin, filled with an assortment of fillings, along with garnishes of fresh alfalfa sprouts and Caesar sauce. The egg muffin assortment includes one with sweet crunchy bell pepper and cucumber cubes, another with portobello mushrooms, and lastly crisp bacon and cheese egg muffins, with an extra dump of cheddar cheese melted on top. It is similar to muffins but a healthier and smaller version, which makes it the perfect mini bite to start off an amazing course.

Q: What was the very first dish that you’ve ever made? Describe the memory.

I think the first dish that I have ever made is chocolate chip cookies, but that was when I was four years old. The only reason I remember it is because I have a picture with my best friend at the time. It was my first attempt at baking, so that was quite a memorable experience. We also had the guidance of our parents because we were like four, and probably not even able to reach the oven *chuckles*. 

I remember that they (the cookies) smelt really nice as chocolate chips usually do. So yeah, it was quite a nice feeling which I still feel today when I bake. You’re eating something that you made from scratch on your own. It’s quite a sense of achievement.

Q: Name the most important ingredient(s) that you cannot cook without.

It depends on what I’m cooking. If I’m cooking Chinese cuisines, which I usually do, then I would say seasonings, soy sauce and oyster sauce. You can’t do anything without those or else the taste of the dish would be tasteless. And in Western dishes, salt is quite an essential ingredient as well as vegetable oil when frying.

And definitely eggs! It’s not used in every dish, but when you add it together with other dishes it makes the meal complete. A very simple solution in case you didn’t cook enough.

Q: If you had to describe your dish in three words, what would they be?

Healthy, colourful, and 香 (xiāng) [Translation: Fragrant]

Q: What inspired you to make this dish?

As a traditional Chinese family, the dishes we prepare are usually straightforward with rice, veggies, meat etc. Because appetisers are uncommon in my family, I really had to think about this.

Honestly, my first choice was devilled eggs but it is a classic appetiser and I was scared that it wouldn’t be that original as other contestants might do the same exact thing. I couldn’t really think of Chinese appetisers so I chose Western. 

I really wanted to try doing the egg muffin for quite a long while since it became a trend two or three years ago. And this time I finally got to try it out. It was my first attempt.

Q: In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a chef?

The first is creativity. I’m not that creative, but I know that it is an important quality. If you look at cooking competitions, you see that they do not always have the ingredients they want. And even here when I’m cooking at my dorm I can’t easily get the ingredients I need. So you have to be creative and know how to substitute it and keep your heart open for the results even if it is not what you’re expecting.

Another quality is definitely hygiene. I wouldn’t want to eat what I cook if it isn’t hygienic.

Q: Is there any chef/cook that you look up to? And why?

Although I like cooking, my interest does not come from those cooking shows. Most of the recipes I learn to cook are from the app ‘小红书’.

Though, the one chef that I look up to is my mom because she taught me everything from the process of handling different types of meat to the basics of baking. 

Q: Lastly, do you have any advice for the newbie chefs out there who would be interested in trying your recipe?

I would say try what you want to try, not just based on how cool it looks. The most important thing is your heart. You can’t simply do it. You can’t do it for the sake of doing it. You have to do it with your heart. That’s the one thing that my mom always tells me. Put attention and detail into it. That’s a big part of every dish that I make. 

This was truly one of my favourite interviews so far. Thank you so much Amanda for such a fun and lively interview sesh! Hope to see more of your cooking in the future! <3

Sidenote: If anyone is interested in exploring new recipes during the semester break, Amanda highly recommends using the app ‘小红书’~

Interviewed & Written by Natasha Maya

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