Who is MasterChef 2018 contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin?

MasterChef 2018 Zaleha Olpin Malaysian

I entered MasterChef with the hope that it will help me boost and promote authentic Malaysian food in the UK.

After a nail biting cook-off between the remaining 16 amateur chefs on yesterday evening’s MasterChef, Zaleha Kadir Olpin narrowly missed out on a place in the final 12.

Having wowed presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace with her introductory dish of Martabak Pastries, the Malaysian-born cook laid down a strong marker in the opening round.

Not only did John, a professional chef known for his knowledge of south-east Asian cuisine, appreciate all the work she had put in, but commented: “I really like what you’ve done. I think it’s really tasty.”

She then stormed into knockout week by enthralling the judges, including 2010 MasterChef champion Dhruv Baker, who described her two flawless dishes as “just incredible”.

With Zaleha exiting the competition, FtL managed to catch up with the mother of two from Bristol to find out more about her passion for cooking and her exciting Malaysian Kitchen Supper Club.


FtL: What made you want to test your culinary skills on MasterChef?

Because I love cooking, I entered MasterChef with the hope that it will help me boost and promote authentic Malaysian food in the UK. I wanted to share my passion and love for Malaysian food with the people around the world. We Malaysians connect through food. British households offer a cup of tea to their guests; we Malaysians offer food. It is just us Malaysians!

FtL: Did you go into the MasterChef kitchen confident knowing that you’d do well? What was your mind set?

No, not really. I never thought I would be called in for audition let alone be cooking for John Torode and Gregg Wallace. I went in with one goal, and that is to do my best. Just getting an apron and getting into the top 56 and meeting John and Gregg is a huge achievement.

We also have former MasterChef contestant, Dean Edwards, coming to our upcoming supper club. Malaysia Kitchen team are so chuffed!

FtL: And how has your family, especially your two children, reacted to seeing you cook on TV?

My family find it funny especially seeing my facial reactions at times. But overall, we sat down together and enjoyed every minute of it.

FtL: What’s the reaction been in general, particularly on social media where you’re quite active, with your participation on the show?

Oh my! I received so many emails; messages on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter; friend requests; interview and recipe requests. But most of all, positive reviews on my cooking, especially on Twitter. I’ve also had Malaysia Press contacting me for an interview, and they are all very proud of my achievements.  I am truly blessed.

FtL: You run a Malaysian supper club too. How long has that been going on for and how has the response been?

My two friends started the supper club and invited me to cook for them without knowing I was on MasterChef.  I kept it a secret for some time since I know the Malaysian community are not so secretive. They only got to know about my venture a few days before it went on air. We had an amazing response, and our coming supper club was sold out within 48 hours.

We also have former MasterChef contestant, Dean Edwards, coming to our upcoming supper club. Malaysia Kitchen team are so chuffed!

I am a traditional cook. I don’t believe in changing recipes to make it fusion. Why change it when it is so delicious?

FtL: You left a lucrative job working for a multi-national oil and gas company to travel to various parts of the world, before settling in Bristol and establishing your Malaysian Kitchen Supper Club. Was this a journey of discovery for you? Can you talk us through this process of change?

It was very hard for me to adapt to such a change in my life and to being a full time housewife after working in the corporate world for over 10 years. The decision was made purely in the interest of our children at the time. Yes, I have lived in Japan, Australia, Jordan, South Korea, Qatar and now in the United Kingdom. When it comes to food, it was an amazing journey of discovery.

In terms of my life, it was a fantastic experience, and I am truly blessed to have had that. We used to have cooking demos with expat wives and learning about food from around the world, making friends, and helping each other along the way. Yes, it became easier and more enjoyable after a certain time; and now I really miss that life!

FtL: Malaysian cuisine is known to have been inspired by regional flavours and traditions. How would you describe your style of cooking? Is it very much traditional or do you also like to experiment?

I am a traditional cook. I don’t believe in changing recipes to make it fusion. Why change it when it is so delicious? I also believe in respecting the tradition and the history of Malaysian cuisine and I intend to keep it going.

I love traditional home cooks and chefs. I love Nigella, Mary Berry, Barefoot Contessa, Nigel Slater and the list can go on.

FtL: Tell us about the biggest influences and inspirations in your culinary life, including any chefs, and how they have made you who you are?

My mother is my biggest influence in my cooking. My traditional Malaysian culinary skills were handed down to me by my mother while my skills of international cuisine have mostly been gained from my friends around the globe.

I love traditional home cooks and chefs. I love Nigella, Mary Berry, Barefoot Contessa, Nigel Slater and the list can go on. I love watching James Martin on Saturday Kitchen these days. I love Madhur Jaffery and her simplicity in cooking.

FtL: What’s your favourite Malaysian restaurant, both in the UK and abroad, and what makes it so special?

My favourite Malaysian restaurant in the UK is Dapur in Holborn. They serve delicious authentic Malaysian food in a Malaysian tiffin that’s perfectly seasoned and full of flavour. There is also Rasa Sayang in Chinatown, London, which serves the best Curry Laksa. Unfortunately, there are no decent Malaysian restaurants in Bristol.

As for other places abroad, there are not many Malaysian restaurants around where I have lived over the past 20 years. Hence the reason why I think my cookery skills have improved tremendously… well, at least my family have said so.

Share With:
Comments
  • KEEP ON TRUCKIN IT Zaleha Kadir Olpin!! You are as much a masterchef at your own. I am Chinese Malaysian, been living in Malaysia for over 50 years, and have never heard or come across ‘crispy’ Rendang as they say. Very sure they don’t know what they are talking about, neither did they ever had any Rendang before. They don’t know what they are missing, but that’s the thing, they are still called famous chef’s???? Biar sajalah. Let them go make their own KFC style crispy Chicken Rendang. And we will be the ones laughing at it. Sure as hell cannot sell even one plate in Malaysia. Someone should serve these two guys a ‘crispy rendang’ if they come across them in Malaysia in future. And tell them it’s original!!! for US 40 a plate.

    3 Apr '18

Leave A Comment