Echoing his time on MasterChef back in 2010 where he placed sixth, Alvin’s time in the competition came to an end during a two-round oyster elimination.
“When I got eliminated I was cursing myself thinking ‘I cannot get past number six!’” Alvin told 10 play. “But the more I think about it, the competition has changed and is so steep now.
“Even though I finished in the same ranking, I think that it’s so much harder as a competition now, so I feel great. I feel like whatever I needed to do in the show I have done.”
During the second round, Alvin wanted to cook the judges a hawker-style oyster omelette, but cooking outside Alvin never counted on having to fight the elements themselves in order to successfully plate up the dish.
With the wind whipping at the burners, Alvin’s wok wasn’t getting up to the right temperature, and with time in the challenge ticking down he had to make the decision to stick with his dish or quickly change.
“I think I was too stubborn,” he admitted. “I wanted to make that dish work because, in its truest form, the dish is delicious!
“We were in a beautiful, open space but I was struggling keeping my flames upright,” Alvin continued. Building a barricade from the wind using chopping boards, at one stage he even got Julie Goodwin to hold things up to help get his burners upright again.
“At the end of the day I don’t think there are any bad cooks in the show, I think it’s just good cooks having a bad day and, true to its form, I had a bad day. They can’t overlook that… the littlest things can send you home.”
Initially, Alvin said he was frustrated to go home on a dish that he knows so well, thinking his family would be so disappointed he failed to plate up the favourite. “Then I thought, hang on, I’m completely out of my environment in terms of comfort zone, cooking that dish outside in an open space, so it’s bittersweet.
“I thought, okay, stick me in a kitchen with a wok and a flame and I can make you this dish again, and I guarantee you it will be good!”
Despite making it to sixth place once again, Alvin left the competition having shown the judges — and the country — everything that he wanted to show by returning to MasterChef.
“They know now what my style of cooking is, what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at. I’ve managed to show all that,” he said. “Are there other dishes I would like to cook for them? Sure! Probably not in a competition sense, but there are so many more wonderful cuisines in Malaysia from all the different races, cultures and clans I think still need to be spotlighted in Australia.”
“In terms of showing people who I am, where I come from, letting people hear the stories of my food and learning more about me, it has been so, so wonderful.”
During his time in the competition, Alvin had several emotional cooks where he grappled with his worthiness and sense of identity both in and outside of MasterChef.
“I think every one of us, in every setting in life, has that imposter syndrome. You never think you’re good enough, especially when there are so many great young guns out there,” Alvin said. “I’m like an old dog trying to learn new tricks.
“It’s quite a very pleasant surprise when judges like Jock, Mel and Andy love eating my food. I’m constantly surprised that they love my humble dishes. They taught me to believe taste trumps everything, it’s all about flavour.”
One moment, in particular, facing off against Tommy in a head-to-head elimination, Alvin brought back the dish that practically made him a household name in Season 2: his Drunken Chicken.
As the clock ticked down its final seconds and Alvin tasted his Drunken Chicken 2.0, he became overwhelmed. The dish had come to represent his entire journey in the kitchen, and this time it was even better than the last.
“It’s such a poignant part of the competition for me, and I wanted to celebrate it, but I couldn’t and it was just so, so overwhelming in a good way!”
Since leaving the competition, Alvin has been surprised by an opportunity he never expected to have after fans became obsessed with his collection of stylish spectacles.
“I’ve had a lot of people commenting on my eyewear,” he said, laughing, “I’ve had a couple of offers to do some collaborations on putting a line out or my name to a brand of spectacles!
“From a cooking side of things, I am looking at putting together a book, my stories and my food. I’ve been putting it off for way, way too long.”
MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand