Gordon Ramsay poses with the owners of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre | Photo: HungryGoWhere
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay arrived at Singapore's Maxwell Food Centre close to noon on Friday 5 July, but had to fight through a huge crowd before he could get to work to learn how to prepare a chicken rice meal.
The chef, who has been to Singapore nearly 20 times now, is in Singapore to take part in SingTel's Hawker Heroes Challenge. The cook-off between him and three selected hawkers will take place, rain or shine, on Sunday 7 July at 6.30pm at Newton Food Centre. It is a free event open to the public on a first-come-first-served basis.
The scene at Maxwell Food Centre was chaotic as the lunchtime crowd was also there to get their meals. Ramsay said: "The size of the queues, when I arrived here, were insane."
Fans crowded around him to get photos and videos, and the press had to resort to standing on tables for a better view. He shook hands with supporters and other hawkers.
Ramsay and his security personnel went four times around the block before he managed to finally step into the small space of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall. Foo Kui Lian, owner of the chicken rice stall, was waiting.
"I'm not taking tips, I'm stealing. I'm like a magpie," he admitted.
He then tried his hand at cutting up one of the poached chickens and Foo gave him some tips.
When asked how confident he is of winning the challenge, he answered: "I am not putting it out there that I can beat then, but I can certainly match them. I love a challenge and I love the vulnerability [that comes with being in a challenge]. And you have some very talented chefs here – this is not about me thinking I'm better than them. SingTel threw the challenge out there. I am going to put my balls on the line."
He had only good words to say of his chicken rice hawker opponent: "Madam Foo doesn't have her own TV series, [and] she hasn't published 15 books, and yet she works like an absolute pro. When you have that amount of following on a daily basis, it's an inspiration. This is about the humbleness, about their level of integrity. These guys don't thrive on Michelin stars and critics – they thrive on locals who are prepared to pay Singapore dollar for great food."
When asked what he thought of Singapore's hawker food and scene, he replied: "I fell in love with Singapore food when I came here 12 years ago. I could speak on behalf of a majority of the chefs globally – hawker culture is not dying out. After these top chefs have finished working their own restaurants, they come to places like this to get inspiration. Hawkers are serving food better than in restaurants, and long may they continue."
View the videos below to find out what Ramsay's strategy for winning is: