It's not everyday that a chef like Gordon Ramsay samples the plate of a Filipino cook.
And for 29-year-old Ralph Xavier Degala, his shrimp and chicken version of pancit earned him an apron from the judges of the US version of the reality cooking show, Masterchef.
“My dad helped teach me this dish at a very young age and it always resonated with me. Pancit stands for a long and prosperous life in the Filipino culture, and I wanted to bring that to the Masterchef kitchen so hopefully it gave me a long and prosperous life in the competition,” Degala said.
Degala said it was only natural for him to showcase Filipino cuisine in the competition which is now in its ninth season.
“I wasn't shy. There was no, 'oh, I wonder if I could, I wonder should I represent Filipinos,' like no, that was never the case. It was more like, 'I'm cooking Filipino food today because I can.' and every week I was waiting for it, there were weeks you couldn't,” Degala added.
The Houston-based accountant was born and raised in Saudi Arabia before his family moved to the US. He said, wherever they went, he nurtured a love for food passed on to him by his parents.
Before joining Masterchef, Degala was already cooking Filipino dishes like Bistek Tagalog and showing them on his YouTube channel.
For the show's mystery box challenge, the Pinoy cook whipped up a fried version of chicken adobo, which was among the top three best dishes for the challenge.
But an attempt at making the dessert Brazo de mercedes in an elimination round got him booted from the show in the same episode.
Degala bared he has no regrets about his stint in Masterchef.
“If I was gonna go out in this competition, it would be the same way I got in, cooking Filipino food,” he said. “I'm so proud to be representing the Philippines and just thank you so much for the support you've given us.”
Despite his short-lived streak, Degala plans to keep on cooking, hoping to soon open his own restaurant in the US, one that serves up the flavors of his heritage.