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[InC-terview] My Kitchen Rules - “Spice Girls” Eva Lean and Debra Ch’ng!

By InCinemas  /  19 May 2015 (Tuesday)
One of the most popular cooking competition show in Australia, My Kitchen Rules (MKR) is back for its sixth season on DIVA, NBCUniversal.


Amongst the 18 teams this season are Eva Lean and Debra Ch'ng, both who have quite strong heritage and culture from Singapore, Malaysia and India. We chat with the duo to find out about their Asian dishes on the show, making MKR history and the worst critique they've received.

The Perth-based pair are marketing colleagues at an energy company when they decided to take a leap of faith to join the competition. Whipping up local dishes like nasi lemak, cauliflower curry and pandan crème brulee, the self-proclaimed 'Spice Girls' tells us more...

InCinemas: Looking back, what was the best advice you received from the judges in 'My Kitchen Rules'?

Eva: The best advice we got from the show was 'not to pretend to cook something that’s not you'. I think the reason we did so well (on the show) is because we always cook things that people like, dishes that we love and something that means a lot to us; so in that sense, we always invested a lot of heart into the dish and that’s why we did well amongst other reasons. Judges Manu and Pete kept telling us to ‘cook what you know’ and ‘don’t try and change things too much’ because the dish that will be good is one from the heart.

Debra: I think the biggest highlight Eva and I had on the show was gaining the highest score in MKR history. We beat the twins from last year and getting quite a lot of 10s throughout the competition.

InCinemas: Yes, a score of 98 points! What was running through your mind when the judges announced the score?

Eva: Thing is, I don’t think we actually thought we will get like perfect 10s, we just thought we had decent dishes. For the fish curry, I was very worried and I thought I will be lucky if I get a 6 or something. So to hear them say they loved our food and giving us near perfect 10s to all three dishes is really out of this world!

I think the reason why we reacted the way we did is because we were genuinely surprised; espcially after getting the lowest score in the previous round and were so close to getting kicked out. Our confidence really took a big hit so to get all the 10s really made a difference. We were really proud of ourselves because we worked really hard for those 10s.

InCinemas: Were the both of you fans of the show before that, and what inspired you to form a pair to participate in the competition?

Debra: Eva and I have watched the show religiously throughout the past seasons. We will sit together after work and talk about it, like ‘did you watch this episode’ or ‘what do you think about this dish?'  I think this year, we thought why don’t we just give it a shot and see where our audition take us and within two days, we already got a call from the executive producer who said that they were really interested in us... we were confirmed as contestants within three to four weeks.


InCinemas: Was there some kind of pressure to know that you will be representing the Asian culture or Asia for that matter?

Eva: (laughs) Asian are like the harshest critics when it comes to food because Asians really know their food well and both of us were so embarrassed because we did so badly the first time round, which was exactly that one thing we didn’t want to do - We didn’t want to talk about cooking authentic food and then delivering shit food. We really wanted to walk the walk.

I also think that it’s pretty funny that, we were making mistakes while cooking and the people who identified our mistakes were mostly the Asians on social media going ‘too much ginger’ or ‘too much belachan (shrimp paste)’.

Debra: To be honest, I think we were more scared what our family would say than the judges. We want to represent those dishes well and although we can cook it, we won’t be as good as our parents or our grandparents.

InCinemas: How much of your cooking style is influenced by growing up in Singapore/Malaysia?

Eva: For me, I grew up in Singapore and moved to Perth when I was 20. I’ve been in Perth for like 13 years now but Singapore has a huge and massive influence for me. The older I get and the longer I’m away from Singapore, I just feel that I don’t want to lose my heritage... I don’t want to lose my Singaporean identity. I want to have something to pass on to my kids and if I don’t make the effort to learn how to cook a dish the original and authentic way, then it’s going to get lost with me and my kids wouldn't know the history.


InCinemas: What is that one food/ingredient you cannot live without?

Debra: Wow, that’s a really, really hard question! I don’t know... I’m tempted to say a few.
Eva: I don’t think I can live without onions. Yeah, ginger, garlic and onions. Those are really important things.
Debra: Shallots and Chilli!
Eva: Oh yes, Chilli!

InCinemas: What was the worst comment you had about your food from your family members?

Debra: It’ll be my grandmother. She will be like ‘I never taught you how to do this! You did it wrong... that’s not my recipe!' (laughs)

For my grandmother and even my dad, they don’t have real recipes? You have to stand there and watch them how they cook. It’s really about a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I think because we are also quite young and need to learn a lot, we are still trying to build up the skills from my grandparents and my dad.

It’s quite embarrassing, like the 'Kang Kong incident'. We were buying Kang Kong and realised Kang Kong wasn’t in season so we just guessed that what we bought was Kang Kong, and you know who pointed our mistake to us? The Asians on social media; no other Caucasians actually picked that out. No one knew until it aired and people started mentioning on social media.

Eva: I think, for me, my dad is the biggest critic in the family. You know they love their food and especially when you are away from home, you become more critical of it. When we messed up the Singapore Chilli Crab, that was the biggest embarrassment because everyone knows what Singapore Chilli Crabs means. I’m from Singapore and I guess the pressure was on. I mean, I was so organised and even had two portions laid out for each of the two pots. I made a mistake because my mind wasn’t focused on what I was doing... but it wasn't that bad.

InCinemas: How has life changed since your participation on the show and what are your future plans?

Debra: Our lives have already started changing even though we are still working out our endeavours as to what we want to do but the one main thing we really want to achieve is to get a cookbook out within the next 12 months, involve a lot of family recipes from Singapore, Malaysia and India.

Eva and I love travelling, so we like to incorporate travelling and cooking all in one go in a show. We are open to anything! So if anyone in Singapore want to have us like a hosting gig or something, we are very happy to fly over to make it happen.


My Kitchen Rules airs every Monday - Wednesdays @ 9.25pm on DIVA (Starhub CH 513, Singtel TV CH 303)!
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