SINGAPORE - She has competed in world and Olympic finals in front of expectant crowds and vocal rivals, but American swimmer Jessica Hardy was a bundle of nerves in a near-empty restaurant kitchen at Marina Bay Sands yesterday.
The 27-year-old freestyle star had been tasked with serving up molten lava cake and French pastry madeleine by Benjamin Siwek, executive pastry chef at the db Bistro Moderne.
"This is nerve-racking, I've never cooked with a top chef before," said the bubbly Californian, who won gold in the women's 4×100m medley relay at the 2012 Olympics.
Hardy was assisted by Straits Times readers Kathlyn Laiu, 13, and India Bruhn, 15, who were selected for the culinary adventure as part of an ST partnership with Sports Swim Organisation.
The two youngsters burst into laughter when the swimmer struggled to crack an egg during preparations.
At the Osteria Mozza restaurant next door, two other readers - Sofia Leong, 36, and Jodi Ong, 20 - joined Italian breaststroke specialist Fabio Scozzoli for their own gastronomic lesson.
Under the watchful eye of executive chef David Almany, the trio - between giggles and playful teasing - produced a burrata with coppa and pickled shallots.
"I eat pasta with my mum's special bolognese sauce every day for lunch but this is a pretty new dish for me," said Scozzoli, a three-time gold medallist at the 2012 European Championships.
"It's cool to get to make it alongside my fans."
Hardy and Scozzoli are in town to take part in the Singapore Swim Stars event, which starts tomorrow at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
After their separate 30-minute cooking classes, the four readers sampled their creations together with the two swimmers over dinner. Each of the readers had each been picked after proving their passion and love for all things swimming.
Leong, a business manager, presented her idol Hardy with a jar of coconut jam, while Kathlyn, a swimmer at Raffles Girls' School (Secondary), quizzed the athletes on their diet and training routines.
The teenager said: "Jessica is one of the most exciting and explosive swimmers around.
"It's a dream come true to share a meal with one of my idols, who I hope to emulate one day."
True to his profession, Scozzoli limited himself to a few bites of the tasty delights and just a sip of a Singapore Sling.
He said: "I can't enjoy too much, I've got a job to do at the Sports Hub this weekend."
This article was first published on September 4, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.