3 Filipino home cooks compete in ‘Master Chef Asia’

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Rico Amancio, 31, is an Ilonggo paralegal. Today, besides winning MasterChef Asia, he also aspires to be the first Filipino chef to have a Michelin star.

Rico Amancio, 31, is an Ilonggo paralegal. Today, besides winning MasterChef Asia, he also aspires to be the first Filipino chef to have a
Michelin star.

Because Filipinos love to eat, they also love everything related to food including reality cooking shows. Take for example the successful local adaptations—both for kids and adults—of the international hit TV series, MasterChef.

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It will certainly excite Filipino foodies to know that three Pinoy home cooks have made it for the first time to the Asian version of the popular culinary competition, in Jake Aycardo, Lica Ibarra and Rico Amancio.

To promote MasterChef Asia, which premieres in the Philippines on September 3 on cable channel Lifetime, the show presented the trio of contenders at a media launch this week at Urbn Bar and Kitchen in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

Present at the event were the show’s three respected judges, Susur Lee, Bruno Ménard and Audra Morrice who are all accomplished chefs in different parts of the world.

“MasterChef Asia is the biggest production Lifetime has ever made,” announced Prem Kamath, deputy managing director in Asia Pacific for A+E Networks, the distributor of Lifetime in the Philippines.

He continued, “We’ve seen numerous versions of the show—there’s [one from]US, Australia, Canada and even the Philippines had its own too. But this is the first time that we are having contestants from multiple countries.”

29-year-old Lica Ibarra is a single mom to a seven-year-old son. Professionally, she is finance sales officer, but passionately, she dreams of becoming a chef.

29-year-old Lica Ibarra is a single mom to a seven-year-old son. Professionally, she is finance sales officer, but passionately, she dreams of becoming a chef.

Besides the Philippines, also represented in contest are other Asian nations namely China, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. With this, Kamath enthused that viewers can expect not only “different flavors” but also “different cultures” from all the 15 home cook contenders.

More importantly he added, “Contestants are not only fighting for the MasterChef Asia title but also national pride.”

Different backgrounds
Aycardo, Ibarra and Amancio come from a variety of backgrounds.

Youngest Aycardo, 24, is an analyst who used to prepare lunch for his banking colleagues. It was from this hobby that he realized his passion is really in cooking rather than finance. He finally decided to quit his previous job and pursue a career in the culinary industry.

On the other hand, 29-year-old Ibarra is a single mom to a seven-year-old son. Professionally, she is finance sales officer, but passionately, she dreams of becoming a chef. When not busy juggling work and motherhood, she also plays Ultimate Frisbee or football, and was once a member of the Women’s National Football Team.

Finally, Amancio, 31, is an Ilonggo paralegal whose journey with food began when he used to help his aunt in the kitchen of a school canteen. Today, besides winning MasterChef Asia, he also aspires to be the first Filipino chef to have a Michelin star.

Jake Aycardo, 24, is an analyst who used to prepare lunch for his banking colleagues. It was from this hobby that he realized his passion is really in cooking.

Jake Aycardo, 24, is an analyst who used to prepare lunch for his banking colleagues. It was from this hobby that he realized his passion is
really in cooking.

The three donned their MasterChef aprons bearing the Philippine flag at their press presentation.

Ibarra began, “Filipinos have a lot of national pride. So first thing I wanted to know when I got to the show was ‘Sino ‘yong mga Pinoy dito’.”

Agreeing with Ibarra, Amancio responded, “We always consulted each other [during the course of the show];” while Aycardo seconded, “We were there for each other.”

Despite being opponents in the competition, the three formed an alliance in representing their country.

Asked why Filipinos should watch MasterChef Asia, Amancio put it best and said, “Please support us because we want to show to the world, to the rest of Asia, that we are not only a country of balut and adobo. We want to show that have diverse cuisines from different regions of the Philippines. We also want to prove that Filipinos can cook and excel in the culinary field.”

Tasting Filipino cuisine
While the Filipino home cooks recounted their unforgettable experience taping and competing in MasterChef Asia, the show’s judges, on the other hand, shared their memorable encounters with Filipino cuisine.

Lee, who is dubbed the “Father of Fusion” for a successful culinary career in Canada, particularly loved sinigang, which is the Philippines’ well-loved loved tangy soup. The chef whose roots are from Hong Kong thoroughly enjoyed tasting the guava-based sinigang.

The show’s three respected judges, Susur Lee, Audra Morrice and Bruno Ménard who are all accomplished chefs in different parts of the world.

The show’s three respected judges, Susur Lee, Audra Morrice and Bruno Ménard who are all accomplished chefs in different parts of the world.

For Menard, his favorite Filipino food is the famous lechon. He is a 3-Michelin-star French chef who has lived in Asia for 20 years.

Morrice, on the other hand, loved pinakbet, a vegetable dish cooked in shrimp paste, and patatim, or braised pork knuckles. She is former MasterChef finalist back in her home country, Australia.

To conclude the launch, the three chefs and mentors gave a peek into what viewers can expect from them in the competition by judging the three Filipino contestants in a 30-minute cooking challenge.

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