Kilo Under Pressure


What happens when you give an amateur chef 48 hours, a professional kitchen crew, and the chance to create an original three-course dinner for a restaurant full of guests to love, hate, scrutinize, and everything in between? Kilo Under Pressure.

After a 4-year-hiatus, Under Pressure returned in May 2016, once again offering home cooks, amateur chefs, or budding culinary geniuses the chance to helm a restaurant and bring their gourmet dreams to life. We started with an open call for submissions; daring individuals submitted their applications, and shortlisted candidates faced us in a challenging interview and tasting process.

At the end of it all, seven amateur chefs emerged. Dubbed The Lucky 7, they will each prepare for and serve a dinner menu of three to five courses, with the support of Kilo during the biggest challenge — service night.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more details on upcoming Kilo Under Pressure sessions.

Meet the Lucky 7

Oliver Budgen

May 2016

Oliver did not have any prior experience working in a professional kitchen — unless you count waiting tables as a student, or volunteering at a burrito stand for charity — so Under Pressure was be a first for him. Originally from London, Oliver used to work in the charity sector, and his current day job is in account management for a technology PR and Communications firm. He spends his free time developing his culinary techniques, and proclaims himself to be “pretty flash” with his knife skills. “I’ve been practicing rock and tap chopping since I was 14, and can now dice an onion in about 6 seconds — without crying!” Cuisine-wise, Oliver grew up in a family of vegetarians, and was taught to treat vegetables with as much respect as meat, which has translated into his food: stripped down Mediterranean, inspired by Southern France, Southern Italy and Greece.

“My ultimate dream is to open a restaurant of my own,” he says. “But I know that the abyss between a cook and a chef is vast, and many have failed by not appreciating this distinction as well as the commitment, passion and business acumen that a successful restaurant requires. I think the Kilo Under Pressure experience would be my chance to see if I really do have what it takes to make the leap into my own enterprise.”

Read about Oliver’s experience in the Kilo Kitchen here.

Juan Phoa

June 2016

Juan is a freelance user experience consultant from Melaka, Malaysia, who’s also a home cook, beat maker, and single parent to a cat. Juan grew up in a household of great cooks, and has fond memories of his grandma’s fried fish eggs, and dad’s corned beef omelette on bread and Campbell’s cream of chicken soup. “It was pantry cooking at it’s finest, and it was the bomb.”

As such, Juan served up a menu infused with plenty of local, familiar flavours, as well as a comfort dish or two elevated to the next level. Think: mee hoon kueh  (a food-court staple of flat noodles in soup) done in a way you’ve never experienced it, and your milky White Rabbit candy from childhood going upscale. “It’s home cooking, honestly, with a few bells and whistles.”

Although he had plenty of culinary influence growing up, it was out of necessity that Juan learnt how to cook. “Back when I was studying in Melbourne, char kway teow prices were mad steep, laksa was average, but produce was cheap. That’s when this kampung boy cut his teeth in cooking.” Juan’s as into his food as he into his beats, likening his dishes to music. “There are only so many elements that can share the 20Hz–20kHz frequency range, like the number of flavours that can fit into a spoon. I delight in playing around with textures, layers, and accents in varying amounts,” he says. “Like any dope-ass track needs a hook, so does a dish. It doesn’t have to make sense like Schoolboy Q’s “ma-man of the bounce”, but it just kinda feels right.”

Read more about Juan’s experience in the Kilo Kitchen here.

Lloyd Moffatt

July 2016

Why join Under Pressure? For Lloyd, it’s a mixture of curiosity, competitiveness and a bit of peer pressure. “I’ve always been interested in understanding what separates a chef and a cook,” he says. “While cooking professionally isn’t something I’d like to do as an occupation, it’s definitely a challenge that I’d like to try.”

Unlike the other chefs, Lloyd doesn’t have any fond memories of home-cooked food while growing up. “My mother is a horrible cook. I love her, don’t get me wrong, but she’s really not a good cook.” Lloyd’s first experience in the kitchen, then, started with something simple. “I went to the butcher and got marinated chicken wings, because I didn’t know how to cook anything.” From there, his interest in cooking snowballed, and these days he’s taken on the role of the “default cook” each Christmas, whipping up feasts for around 20 people.

Perhaps a reflection of his simple beginnings in the kitchen, Lloyd’s cooking style may embrace complex techniques, but is ultimately unpretentious. On his mind: hearty mushroom and leek croquettes, homemade raviolis, and a rustic apple and rhubarb pie to finish it off. “It’s going to be nice enough to impress the neighbours, but not so fancy that Grandma won’t eat it.”

Justin Edwards

August 2016

The general manager of a playground manufacturing company by day, and ambitious home cook by night, Justin has dabbled in a wide range of cuisines spanning European, to Japanese, and even Indian. “I’ve always loved cooking and entertaining,” says Justin. “It’s a real passion for me, especially when you see the smiles on people’s faces.” Hailing from the UK, Justin’s love for food can be traced to the age of 6. “We had this beautiful little dessert cookbook, and every Sunday my mother and I would pick out a recipe, go get the ingredients, and I’d make the dish,” he says. “I think the first thing I ever did was a blackberry crumble. Now that I think about it, I probably made more of a mess on the floor than get anything into the bowl, but my mother started my passion.” Since then, Justin’s gone far beyond the humble crumble, improving on his culinary techniques, and hosting bigger dinner parties. “I’ve cooked Christmas lunch events for up to 20 people,” shares Justin. “I once did an 8-dish degustation menu based on (renowned British chef) Heston Blumenthal recipes, for 8 people — it took me four days to make every component!”

A fan of communal dining and hearty family meals, Justin’s menu will feature larger sharing plates and a variety of meats, with chickens on the roast and whole fishes on the grill, among others. “I’m here to gain some experience in a kitchen and understand its process,” he says. “I’m also learning how I can convert my home cooking to a larger scale.”

Clay Kuok

September 2016

Clay is an Art Director from Macau who now lives and works in Singapore. If there ever were a perfect environment to nurture a foodie, it was Clay’s childhood. With a family of “incredible home cooks” and vibrant street food at every corner, her love affair with food started early. “We had the best dim sum from gas-operated pushcarts; the freshest curb-side dai pai dong (traditional open-air food stalls) seafood; and legit artisanal homemade snacks sold from hole-in-the-wall shops.”

But that’s not what pulled her into the kitchen; Clay only really started cooking when she immigrated to Singapore. “There were no dubious food on sticks, hot plate camel’s hump, and everything was dead when we bought it.” Not that she doesn’t like Singapore’s street food: “I love bak chor mee as much as I love the Spice Girls (I really, really love them zig-a-zig-ha). It’s just a different scene.” With both parents too busy to cook, Clay made her first dish following faded step-by-step instructions on a jar of spaghetti sauce. “I was 12, I was hungry, and I was happy I never had to eat another tray of microwaved rubbish ever again.”

Nearly two decades on, Clay now spends her weekends experimenting with food, infusing her travel experiences into her dishes. Expect a menu that seems to have influences from all around the world, with its roots still firmly planted in home soil — think sugarcane and basil in a granita slushie, or a mixed rice dish inspired by sushi, paella, claypot and fried rice. “I love food that’s simple, straightforward, and interesting. And that too, is my approach to cooking. I’m no Iron, Master, or Top Chef, really — just a home cook making happy meals.”

Brian Kennett

October 2016

He may not be a professional chef just yet, but Brian’s written a cookbook, served an 8-course meal for charity, and cooked a massive barbecue for a party of more than 50 guests. Brian works as a Business Development Director, but spends his free time indulging in his love for food, perfecting recipes or checking out new bites around town, and sharing his findings on his culinary blog. “I’ve always dreamed of working in a professional kitchen,” says Brian. “But now, at 47 years of age, with three kids, I think that dream has sadly passed me by. So this is about pure fun and enjoyment, and to have that chance to live a dream, if only for one night.”

Originally from London, an extraordinary dining experience at Da’s Thai Restaurant in England, and his move to Asia 13 years ago, piqued Brian’s interest in Asian cuisine. “When I visit a country, I eat local. I want to eat the generations-old recipes, the ‘hand-me-downs’ if you will,” says Brian. “I ask for recipes, which, 99% of the time, are never forthcoming. So I write about the experience in my notebook, come home to Kitchen Kennett, and try to recreate it.” It’s thus no surprise that Brian’s menu features a mix of eclectic influences — from Mediterranean marinades, traditional barbecues, to Asian plum and fish sauces, diners can expect the unexpected.

Xu Tinglin


A mishap with Swedish meatballs got Tinglin taking his cooking more seriously. “I followed the recipe religiously, but somehow still managed to screw it up by salting it twice. That really started my journey with home cooking, because I realised the difference between food you get outside, and what you can create in your home.”

A financial advisor, Tinglin is realistic about his passions, doubting that he would ever become a full-time chef. “I really salute chefs who do this day in and day out, yet still remain sane,” says Tinglin. “I cook for my friends, sometimes, and I’ve realised it’s really a difficult and lonely process. You’re alone in your head, people are outside mingling, and you’re inside the kitchen slaving away.” Still, that doesn’t stop him from exploring recipes and whipping up feasts in his spare time, and this is also where Under Pressure comes in. “The most people I’ve cooked for is six,” he says. “So this will definitely be a big challenge.”

Born and bred in Singapore, Tinglin nonetheless says that his menu will take influence from all over the world. He’s leaning towards European flavours for the night, with a Tex-Mex twist — think luscious slow-cooked brisket, with flour tortillas and spicy salsa. “I’m not really tied down to a certain style, so inevitably, there’ll be some Asian influences as well. Singapore is a great cosmopolitan city, and our supermarkets are stocked with items from around the world, so no chef is really shortchanged.”

The First Under Pressure

Nithiya Laila was our first ever Under Pressure contender back in 2011. It wasn’t all smooth sailing during service night, but Nithiya lived to tell the tale. Watch what happened below, and read about Nithiya’s experience here.