This MasterChef UK Contestant Was Eliminated Because Her Chicken Rendang Wasn't Crispy

"The chicken skin isn't crispy, it can't be eaten."

Cover image via YouTube/Instagram (edited)

Meet Zaleha Kadir Olpin, a Kuantan-born chef who was a contestant on the latest series of MasterChef UK

According to New Straits Times (NST), the 48-year-old former Petronas accountant polished her culinary skills and passion of cooking tradition Malaysian dishes in the last 18 years while travelling across six countries.

The Sun reported that Zaleha settled down in Bristol, United Kingdom with her husband, and dreams to be able to teach Malaysian cookery. 

Zaleha made it to the knockout rounds of MasterChef UK's quarter finals, where contestants were challenged to cook dishes that were important or significant to themselves

Zaleha presented her nasi lemak and chicken rendang to the judges.

Image via YouTube

Zaleha told MasterChef UK judge John Torode that she chose to make nasi lemak as it was her childhood favourite.

"It's very special," she said to John when she was asked what the dish meant to her.

However, John went on to claim that Zaleha's chicken rendang has to be "really, really soft, and falling apart". 

John Torode was commenting on how Zaleha's nasi lemak and chicken rendang should turn out to be.

Image via YouTube

Zaleha was then eliminated from the show following the judges' criticisms on her chicken rendang

Image via YouTube

The decision came after judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace were unsatisfied with Zaleha's chicken rendang. 

"The chicken skin isn't crispy, it can't be eaten," Gregg said to Zaleha when she presented her nasi lemak and chicken rendang to the judges. 

"But all the sauce is on the chicken, I can't eat," he added.

John went on to tell Zaleha that her decision to put the chicken rendang on the side of her nasi lemak was a mistake.

Judge Gregg Wallace criticised Zaleha's chicken rendang for being not crispy.

Image via YouTube

Netizens reacted to Zaleha's elimination by criticising the judges' comments on her chicken rendang

Some condemned the MasterChef judges for not knowing how chicken rendang should be cooked, and having a lack of understanding of the traditional Malaysian dish.

Image via Twitter

One netizen expressed her frustration at Gregg for saying that Zaleha's chicken skin was not crispy, as it is not a norm for chicken rendang.

Image via Instagram

Another netizen also praised Zaleha and stressed that classic chicken rendang does not have crispy skin, contrary to Gregg's claim during the show.

Image via Instagram

NST reported that Malaysian celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, better known as Chef Wan, also chided the MasterChef judges for their comments on Zaleha's chicken rendang

"What rubbish is he talking about? This is not duck ala orange or confit d canard; the way French cook their duck," Chef Wan was quoted as saying by NST.

"Obviously he does not know what he is talking about. We cook it the Malaysian rendang way," he added, in reference to Gregg's comments on Zaleha's chicken skin.

Following her elimination from the show, Zaleha took it to Instagram to express her disappointment, but stood by her way of cooking nasi lemak

Zaleha runs the Malaysian Kitchen supper club in Bristol, which has been sold out days after its announcement

She is also putting together her cookery book following her exit from MasterChef, and emphasised on respecting the tradition and history of Malaysian cuisine.

Feed The Lion reported that Zaleha aims to share her love and passion for Malaysian food with people around the world.

Zaleha's nasi lemak and chicken rendang was featured in episodes 13 and 14 of MasterChef UK. You can watch them here:

What do you think about Zaleha's elimination from MasterChef UK? Let us know in the comments below.

In response to the hoo-ha, BBC and the judges themselves have come forward to personally explain the "crispy" comment:

Here are a few other Malaysian cooks who made a name for themselves in MasterChef as well:

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