Ms Gooi Jia Yi is among the top 12 contestants in season 3 of MasterChef Singapore. Photo Credit: Mediacorp

When Ms Gooi Jia Yi was 11 years old, she asked to go for wakeboarding class after seeing a brochure about the water sport at her father’s university alumni club. 

She fell in love with wakeboarding and started training competitively in 2015 when her coach saw the potential in her. She went on to do him proud by winning an individual Bronze medal at the 2017 SEA Games. 

Ms Gooi Jia Yi taking part in SEA Games 2017 in Kuala Lumpur. Photo credit: Gooi Jia Yi

Now 23 years old, Ms Gooi is eager for a challenge and has thrown her hat in the ring again. But instead of vying for a sports medal, she is competing to be MasterChef Singapore.

Why She Cooks

In 2020, Ms Gooi’s wakeboarding training at East Coast Park had to come to a stop when the Covid-19 circuit breaker started. 

She was then a sophomore at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), pursuing a degree in Environmental Earth Systems Science. While she’s busy with school work during the semester, she got bored when term break began, as both her wakeboarding routine and overseas holiday plans were disrupted. 

That’s when Ms Gooi started spending more time in the kitchen. She’s a big fan of kueh (traditional cakes), so she decided to make her own kuehs.

“I just used Google to read more recipes and watch some videos,” Ms Gooi told The UrbanWire over a Zoom interview. 

And she’s hooked. She learnt that cooking is “never boring” as she always has to “figure out new ways to improve the recipe and come up with new refinements”.

It’s also more wallet-friendly to make her own kuehs than to buy them from the shops. 

The Birth of “Angkugooi”

Ms Gooi started posting her kuehs on her Instagram account and let her friends try her creations. 

With her friends’ encouragement, she started selling kuehs online. That’s how her home-based business Angkugooi came about. She’s happy to promote her kuehs as she feels that the traditional snacks are losing their importance in society”.

Kueh illustrations done up by Ms Gooi for Angkugooi 
Screenshot from: Angkugooi on Instagram

Ms Gooi said her friends were really supportive and always ordered from her for their gatherings. Her father also helped her with delivery.

She said her business peaked in around December 2020 and January 2021. She felt good but having to fulfil many orders can also be overwhelming. 

“The equipment that I have at home is quite limited,” she said. “I do not have the big steamer and it was quite tiring as I took the whole day to make more batches.”

She’s pausing her online business for now, but hopes to be able to open a kueh cafe one day. 

“I would like to sell both fusion and traditionally flavoured kuehs in my kueh café,” she said. “You can already get traditional kuehs in shops, so I feel like it would be interesting to test out and try new flavour combinations to appeal to more people.”

Joining MasterChef

After honing her culinary skills for two years, Ms Gooi felt confident enough to audition for the third season of MasterChef Singapore. 

“I joined Masterchef to challenge myself,” Ms Gooi said. “Masterchef is something different, it is not like cooking at home for your family to enjoy.”

She’s now one of the youngest contestants in the Mediacorp reality show. The other 23-year-old contestant is Mr Johnathan Chew. 

While it’s intimidating to compete alongside much more experienced cooks, Ms Gooi said the MasterChef environment is unexpectedly friendly. 

“The contestants are very friendly and we help each other by giving each other advice,” she said. “We share cooking techniques and recipes with each other sometimes before the competition, which can help someone improve their overall dish.”

Want to find out if the spirited athlete-turned-home chef will make it to the top in the show?

You can catch MasterChef Singapore on meWATCH, or on Channel 5, Sunday, 9.30 pm. 

Proofread By: Darrius Chua, Effa Serena and Nashita Farveen