Romulo Lamaton Royol Jr., simply JR or "Mulong", a proud Igorot-Bicolano band vocalist from Barlig, Mountain Province, is the first MasterChef Pinoy Edition grand winner, the Philippine version of the competitive cooking reality television series, MasterChef.
Royol impressed host-judges Judy Ann Santos, Ferns Aracama, JP Anglo, and Rolando Laudico, as well as celebrity guest judges Kris Aquino and Richard Gomez with his organic goose dish called "Chicken Bigorot", after a live cook-off, dubbed the "MasterChef Pinoy Edition: The Live Cook-off", at the SM North Edsa Skydome on February 9, 2013.
There were no special tasks or challenges given for the finale. The only instruction given is to simply create a winning dish.
"Ito po 'yung fusion ng origin ko, ng heritage ko. Bicolano po ang father, and ang mom ko is proud Igorota. 'Yung chicken, poached po siya with salted "etag" (salted, smoked pork from the Cordilleras), and to put a twist of Bicol in it, gumamit po ako ng gata... Tino-torch po naman 'yung feathers, para magdagdaga ng extra depth and flavor doon sa broth niya. For the rice, I used heirloom rice and etag din," Royol explained to the judges.
With an average of 96.1 points, the 29-year-old Igorot chef bested finalists Myra Santos (4th place), Ivory Yat (93; third place), and Carla Mercaida (93.9; second place), making him the first "MasterChef Pinoy Edition" grand winner after the 30-minute kitchen showdown.
"I felt numb. It's as if everything around me just froze," he told reporters following his win.
As the first Pinoy MasterChef, Royol won a check worth P1 million, while the other finalists bagged P500,000, P300,000, and P200,000, respectively. The winners were also awarded scholarships from the Center of Asian Culinary Studies and took home kitchen showcases.
Chef JR, Farm To Table Host
Royol, the vocalist of a small underground band called "Israfel", continues to realize his dream of becoming a renowned chef.
Chef JR has represented the Philippines at various international culinary festivals including Japan and Myanmar.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 has opened a new opportunity to Chef JR as he will host a cooking show on GMA Life TV, "Farm to Table."
"I am very excited to be part of this project. I am very blessed," he said.
Igorot Chef said the project was natural for him, and he was excited about the knowledge he could gain from working with different people. Chef JR also prefers to be branded as a chef with a rustic and technical style.
"Rustic because I always want to go back to my roots. Technically kasi one way of fast-tracking my career is to really study-specific requirements like anong temperature ba dapat naluluto ang chicken breast. 'Yung pinaka-science ng cooking," he added.