EXCLUSIVE: Poh Ling Yeow tells: Why I returned to Masterchef Australia

The popular chef on TV fame, religion and cooking for the masses
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Poh Ling Yeow landed in the middle of the cyclone that is MasterChef way back in 2009, and her life has never been the same since.

WATCH: The way Poh announced she was returning to Masterchef is adorable 

Now, after being a mentor to cooks on the reality TV show last year, Yeow is once again in the eye of the storm as a contestant on Season 12, filming for a draining 12-hour days, five days a week for the upcoming Network Ten show.

“It’s a bit nuts at the moment,” Yeow, 47, says of filming. “But I’m loving it.”

Much has changed since Yeow became a household name when she came runner-up to Julie Goodwin in the inaugural season of MasterChef. She’s had her own series on both the ABC and SBS. She’s written books. She opened a cafe, Jamface by Poh, in Adelaide in 2016, which closed last year, and continues to bake for her weekend stall at Adelaide Farmers’ Market. And she even tied the knot with partner Jono Bennett in 2014.

Yeow became a household name when she came runner-up to Julie Goodwin in the inaugural season of MasterChef. (Credit: Getty)

Yet the stress of the MasterChef kitchen is an all-too-familiar feeling. “I thought I’d have my act a bit more together having been in the industry for a few years now,” she confesses. “But it’s just that craziness at the beginning of each challenge where you have to run around and get your equipment. I hate that bit so much.”

It’s an all-star series of MasterChef, with Yeow returning alongside other fan favourite cooks such as Chris Badenoch from Season 1, Hayden Quinn from Season 3 and Callum Hann from Season 2. Judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris have been replaced by Melissa Jeong, Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo. But why did Yeow, with all her success, agree to come back?

“I wanted to feel that electricity again,” she says. “I think that very healthy fear and just not knowing what’s going to happen next is a very unique feeling that you get in the MasterChef kitchen and to a certain extent you become addicted to it.

The cast of favourites returning  for Season 12 of MasterChef. (Credit: Ten)

Amazingly, there was a time, prior to signing on to do MasterChef the first time, when a “super-indecisive” Yeow wasn’t sure she even wanted to do the show. She even failed to turn up to her second audition!

“I just thought, ‘Am I just going to wind up a hasbeen a reality TV joke? Am I going to be turned into some kind of TV villain?’” she recalls. “I was pretty stressed about that. And I was an artist – was I just flushing all of that down the toilet?”

“I would call myself highly spiritual but definitely not religious.” (Credit: Getty)

Normal concerns, to be sure. But things have turned out for the best, with Yeow “kicking open every door” she’s ever faced since her time on the show.

Another opportunity she’s been afforded is being a spokesperson for Audible, which delivers audio books – perfect for someone like Yeow, who is the definition of time poor.

“I’ve actually been aware and saddened that books have been pushed out of my life because I’m just so busy,” she says. “I write books but I’m too busy to read them – it is ironic that I’ve found myself in that position.”

Yeow is happily living what some would consider an unconventional life. Yeow’s manager is her ex-husband, Matt Phipps, whose partner is Yeow’s friend, Sarah Rich. When Yeow met Matt they were both Mormons, but she has since distanced herself from religion.

“I would call myself highly spiritual but definitely not religious,” she says. “I feel like [religion has] caused so many issues in the world.”

You can read the rest of the article in this week’s issue of WHO – ON SALE NOW

(Credit: WHO)

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