ENTERTAINMENT

MasterChef’s Poh Ling Yeow shares candid confession

"I've never really identified with being female or Asian or anything."
Loading the player...

She’s one of the nation’s favourite MasterChef contestants but Poh Ling Yeow has shared a candid confession about her personal identity.

WATCH BELOW: Poh Ling Yeow is eliminated from MasterChef

This week, Poh appeared on Stan Grant’s One Plus One and revealed what it was like growing up in Australia as a young girl after her she and her family emigrated from Malaysia when she was eight.

Despite growing up not liking the way she looked because she didn’t fit in and “felt completely alien,” the MasterChef star explained that she doesn’t want to be defined and placed in a certain category.

“Being in the media I think that’s something that I’ve really fought hard to break down, because in the media people will think that they like you and they’re very quick to decide why without really digging very deep,” she said.

“I’ve never really identified with being female or Asian or anything. I really just want to do interesting things and it’s funny when I’ll get jobs that are very much steered towards how I look.”

She added: “It’s really funny because I go ‘You don’t understand, I’m not your person for Chinese New Year – I’m, like, the worst Asian! I don’t speak any Asian languages…”

Poh went on to explain that for years she grappled with cultural guilt but admits she’s now comfortable with who she is and how her parents brought her up.

“I love a lot of my culture but I also don’t feel an impulse to identify hugely with it. For me it’s all about moving forward and creativity.”

poh
“I’ve never really identified with being female or Asian or anything. I really just want to do interesting things.” (Credit: ABC)

Poh also recounted her experience when she auditioned for the first season of MasterChef Australia back in 2009 and how judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan questioned her for making a nouvelle cuisine dish.

“[The judges] were like ‘Why did you do that?’ and I said ‘Well I guess because I don’t actually cook Asian that much,'” she said.

“But then I very quickly felt, not pressure, I knew it worked to my advantage to play to what I looked like because it makes you an easy character to identify in a sea of contestants where everyone’s grappling to get airtime or be seen and understood.”

“I very quickly realised ‘Oh ok I’m an Asian girl cooking Asian food.’ And I was happy with that because at the time I was really interested in learning all the cultural dishes that I grew up with so it accidentally played into what I was going through at the time.”

poh
Poh rose to fame when she starred on the first season of MasterChef Australia in 2009. (Credit: Ten)

The TV chef added that putting people in boxes has a negative side.

“I feel a lot of pressure to tell stories that I don’t feel relate to me,” Poh confessed.

“I feel like the more we try to pigeonhole, the more we’re segregating at the same time and I think that’s really dangerous.

“I don’t identify with being a woman at all, I identify with being a human or being an Asian – I just see myself as a citizen of the world.”

poh
“I feel like the more we try to pigeonhole, the more we’re segregating at the same time and I think that’s really dangerous.” (Credit: Instagram)

Poh returned to the MasterChef kitchen for this year’s All Star season and made it to the top six.

Shortly after her elimination, the season one runner-up spoke about the cultural representation on the 2020 season compared to when she was first on in 2009.

“I feel like in the first few seasons there was quite little representation and I could probably get away with more in a way. It was nice to have that bar raised and have the Khanhs, the Brendans, the Aminas and the Roses representing these cultures and it felt really good,” she told Now To Love.

“Cultural food is where it’s at for me – I will dine high-end once a year but for me it’s all about peasant cooking and how the food is informed by cultures, that’s what really gets me going.”

Related stories