The Amazing Food Challenge: Fun In The Philippines, is returning for a third season on the Asian Food Channel. The show is hosted by a renowned celebrity chef Aaron Craze. You surely remember his show the Rude Boy Food, which also aired on AFC in 2013. He is a regular on Jamie Oliver’s YouTube channel, Food Tube. Unlike many celebrity chefs, Aaron began cooking professionally quite late.
Born into a family of West London criminals, young Aaron did not have the luxury of attending any culinary schools, while having to make ends meet. In 2007 he joined Jamie’s Chef, a television competition created by Jamie Oliver in 2007. With no prior experience in F&B he won the show and began his glorious path as a chef.
I love the brotherhood of the kitchen. I love the adrenalin.
The first two seasons of the action-packed culinary competition The Amazing Food Challenge: Fun in the Philippines were immensely popular and this time 12 new contestants get the chance of a lifetime to travel across the Philippines – all in an effort to win USD 30,000 and an all-expense paid trip around the Philippines.
Maria Kuvshinova from Clubvivre, your private chef service, met Aaron Craze to cook and talk about his life as a celebrity chef and what happens behind the closed doors of his kitchen, his time in the Philippines and The Amazing Food Challenge.
MK: What is special about The Amazing Food Challenge for you personally?
AC: The organisers could have picked anyone, but they picked me. And I’ve got to come all the way from London to the Philippines to try to promote their country as well as the show. I was very honoured. I saw a different side of Asia. When people think of Asia, they usually think of chili, lemongrass, coriander. But cooking in the Philippines has a bit of Spanish influence, so it is completely different than what I expected.
MK: What was your personal challenge?
AC: Doorways, I am a bit too tall. And mosquitos – we don’t have those in London (laughing).
MK: Do you think the show has a bigger purpose besides entertainment?
AC: It would be nice if the show is shown globally, so people can know about the Philippines. When I ask my friends what do you know about the Philippines, they know nothing. There is so much to explore, wonderful food and people. There are regions that look like the Republic of Ireland, and there are regions that look like The Grand Canyon and you would never know.
MK: Any spoilers you can reveal?
AC: Let’s say there are 12 participants and they do end up in teams, and they are not always in the same team.
The new 13 episode series of The Amazing Food Challenge: Fun in the Philippines will premiere on Tuesday at 22 December at 9.00pm on Starhub Ch435.
MK: What do you love about being a chef?
AC: I love the brotherhood of the kitchen. Everyone looks out for each other and you become like a family. I love the adrenalin. I just like the fact, that you are under pressure and you have to be consistent every day. It keeps you on your toes. You can’t be good one day and be rubbish the next day. If someone comes in to have specially “that same dish”, it’s got to be the same every day. This keeps me fit, it makes me go a bit crazy sometimes as well. And most of all I love the freedom and being around food all the time. If you had a drink the night before and you are having a rough time, you can make yourself a super smoothie because you’ve got everything in your fridge! (Laughing).
Bon Jovi was circling in his helicopter and he couldn’t land.
MK: What do you dislike about being a chef?
AC: The hours are crazy. It is a very demanding job, you are catering to people, and there is nobody looking after you.
MK: Why do you think the kitchen is such a male space?
AC: I think that many young guys (especially in England) don’t excel so much at school so they end up finding themselves in the kitchen washing dishes and working their way up. Getting a job in the kitchen to wash dishes is easy without any education or qualifications. If you’ve got common sense then we can train you.
MK: Whats the biggest disaster you’ve encountered in the kitchen?
AC: Jamie Oliver offered me to do a backstage catering gig for Bon Jovi, which he couldn’t do himself. I totally went for it. We were working in the VIP tent and it was in a big grass area. One of the trainees changed the gas and literally brew up the entire VIP area. Bon Jovi was circling in his helicopter and he couldn’t land. I was shouting to my team: “Take off your chef jackets now, mingle into the crowd!” (laughing). And then we heard someone saying: It was one of Jamie Oliver’s chefs! But we’ve got away with it. Jamie was laughing.
MK: Can you share with us what are the pranks you pull on new chefs?
AC: A lot of chefs do this: you rub a piece of chili against someone’s knife handle. So when they rub their eyes, they scream and shout. Or you can put tabasco into someone’s coffee. Or when a new chef comes in, you cover a paprika in flour and you ask him to chop it until it turns red. You say it is a special kind of flour.
Some of the pranks I can’t say, they are too bad. You have to come work in the kitchen for a week to find out.
MK: Is there a question you want journalists to ask, but they never do?
AC: I guess what would have I been if I wasn’t a chef.
MK: What then?
AC: I would have been a football player. I was really into football, but I never really had anyone to guide me in the right direction. And in football you really should be pushed int he young age. You have to stay away from drinks and everything what comes with it.
MK: So you are a real team player then, I bet it helps in the kitchen.
AC: It certain does! The higher you get in the ranks the more it becomes about management and organising people.
MK: I am sure a lot of people who are going to watch The Amazing Food Challenge, Fun in the Philippines 3 are going to be inspired to become a chef. How can they understand if it is something for them?
AC: I would say age really doesn’t matter. I started cooking when I was 24.
Be prepared to give up a lot of social life. Your chef friends will be there, but other friends won’t. You won’t be available to hang out on a weekend. Also chefs that change the restaurant – you won’t see them again, you will spend days and nights with other new chefs. So be prepared to give up a lot of social life.
Secondly you have to prepare to work stupid hours. Finish at 1 am, go to bed at 2 am and wake up at 6 am.
You have to be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up for at least 4 years before you get any decent money. Because it is not about the money, If it was, you wouldn’t do it. It is a passion job.
MK: And lastly, It’s the second time you are visiting Singapore, what is Singapore food for you?
AC: Chili Crab, Black Pepper Crab, Chicken Rice – these are the things I liked.