Former hotel manager and now full-time mum, Ping Coombes, 33, has been crowned the MasterChef 2014 Champion. After an incredible eight weeks of seriously intense challenges Ping Coombes was awarded her title of MasterChef Champion 2014 by judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.
Ping said: “The last time I felt such emotion was when my daughter was born. Something that you don’t get to experience a lot. Pure joy and pure bliss that feels incredible. Epic. My mother will be really proud I’m sure. I say this a lot but she still won’t let me in her kitchen!”
John Torode said: “When I eat Ping’s food, it makes me happy, it makes my heart thump. For me Ping is a cooks cook, she gets her head down and she works really, really hard to make sure she reaches her goal. She is pretty amazing.”
Gregg Wallace added: “She inspires me, she excites me. And she cares so much. Rarely have I seen someone whose repertoire can span whole continents.”
Ping battled her way from 60 contestants through to the final three and throughout the final week and alongside other finalists, Luke Owen and Jack Lucas, had to demonstrate her creativity, skill and utter determination as the finalists undertook serious and life-changing challenges.
Over the past week viewers have seen Ping: cook for the Chef’s Table, which was this year presided over by Tom Kerridge; challenged by the humble chicken in the Invention Test; and in the penultimate show, travel to the creative heartland of Barcelona – the heart of the biggest food revolution of the last 20 years, where she cooked with the greatest chefs of the last century – Ferran Adria, Carles Abellan and Christian Escribà.
The final task was to prepare a three-course meal for judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace. Ping’s winning menu consisted of: a starter of her interpretation of a Wanton Soup; a Chicken and Shitake Mushroom Broth, with Pork and Crab Dumplings wrapped with Egg Noodles topped with Crispy Wanton Skins served with braised Chinese Leaves and Enoki Straw Mushrooms, Pickled Shimeji Mushrooms and Pickled Green Chillies; a main course of Nasi Lemak, Coconut and Pandan Rice with Spicy Sambal Lemongrass Prawns, Turmeric Fried Chicken coated in Spanish Potato Crisps served with a Sambal with Deep Fried Anchovies, Crispy Shallots, Cucumber, Quails Eggs and Edible Flowers; with a dessert of Coconut and Vanilla Pannacotta with Charred Pineapple, Compressed and Freeze-Dried Mango, Coconut Tuille and a Pineapple and Lime Air.
Of her winning starter, judge John Torode told Ping said: “It’s truly delicious. I don’t know how you made it. I wouldn’t be able to replicate it. It’s absolutely stunning.”
While Gregg Wallace told her: “I am amazed by the amount of work and the appearance of your dishes. Those flavours I haven’t experienced before and they absolutely thrill me. So clever, so, so clever.”
Speaking on the highs and lows in the competition, Ping said: “I think the time I loved most was my time in Barcelona. Spain really does bring something out in me. Spain seemingly opened her arms and showed me her magic. I loved every moment especially cooking for Ferran Adria and I felt that anything was possible. Apart from my wedding and the birth of my daughter, the time I spent in Spain was truly magical.”
While the most challenging part of the competition was the chicken test. Ping explained: “I entered the competition with a chicken kapitan curry so it is ironic that chicken almost cost me a place in the final. I was quite heartbroken when John and Gregg didn’t find it exciting in comparison to my other dishes. I could have cooked something else but ‘chicken rice’ is a famous dish of Ipoh, my hometown, so I wanted to bring it to the competition. That was my worst day ever as I had to go against Angela and had to pull myself together to cook for my life!
“Getting to the final after ‘chicken gate’ was the most intense and emotional period of the entire competition. I was so relieved and giddy to have my name announced but I was also very sad as I had to say goodbye to Angela.”
Ping is now planning her future in food. She said: “I want to continue to learn more new skills and techniques, adapting them to East Asian cooking. I’d also like to introduce the UK to more Malaysian flavours so perhaps write a cookbook, hold cookery classes and supper clubs. The dream, hopefully in the not too distant a future, is to open a Malaysian cafe and cookery school. To be honest, the possibilities are endless; as long as I am still cooking and having fun doing it.”
But for now, winning MasterChef is still something she’s still getting used to. Ping said: “I’m still ccompletely stunned. It still hasn’t sunk in yet that I am the champion of MasterChef 2014. Words can’t really describe it. It’s like being given the present you wanted for so long and you can’t still quite believe that it is in your possession.”
Ping was born in Malaysia in a very small town called Ipoh, a culinary town known for its chicken rice and chicken noodles. She started to cook when she came to university and over the years her mother, who has been her biggest influence has given her tips.
She remembers: “When I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to touch anything in the kitchen. My mum is very territorial and still is very territorial. But my Mum shows her love through cooking so I would rather her do it!”
Ping lives in Bath with her husband Andrew and 18 month year old daughter Alexa.
MASTERCHEF CHAMPIONS LAUNCH ULTIMATE DINING EXPERIENCE
MasterChef Restaurant & Bar, a one-off pop-up restaurant, opens in London this September, with 2014 champion Ping Coombes joining a host of previous MasterChef champions and finalists showcasing incredible dishes inspired by the past ten years of the popular and much-loved television series.
The month-long, pop-up is at the unique location of the Blue Fin building in Southwark, overlooking the River Thames,and celebrates the diverse tastes and talents of the amateur MasterChef Champions who captured the nation’s hearts and appetites.
Each week, a core of three winners and finalists will head up the kitchen with menus inspired by the dishes that made them famous, for this is a one-off culinary experienceincluding: 2014 Champion, Ping Coombes, 2013 Champion, Natalie Coleman; 2011 Champion, Tim Anderson; 2010 Champion Dhruv Baker; 2009 Champion, Mat Follas and 2008 Champion, James Nathan.
The restaurant will be open Tuesday to Sunday, each day serving a three-course lunch, two-course dinner and five-course tasting menu, as well as a special MasterChef brunch being served at weekends.
Tickets through Ticketmaster will be on general release from May 26th. For more information please log on to www.masterchefpopup.com and follow on Twitter on @MCRestaurantUK