Jess Liemantara, aka ‘Jess Lemon’ became famous as Masterchef Australia Season 10’s youngest contestant. At the age of only 19, she stood out from the pack with her whimsical desserts and love of sugar—but she proved equally formidable with savoury courses as she infused Asian flavours into one fantastic plate after another.
But who is Jess, and what made her such a favourite among viewers?
Here’s are some fast facts and quick updates on what she’s been up to since her season debut!
Her Life Has Always Revolved Around Food
Born in Perth, Jessica Liemantara was just a year old when her parents moved the family to Melbourne, where her Indonesian parents owned ‘Foodtopia Fusion Cafe’, which specialized in Thai, Malay and Indonesian food.
Even at a young age, she was already involved in her parents’ restaurant; “My brother and I both helped my parents in the restaurant, I managed floor operations, till management, and barista ring; and my brother worked as the chef along with my dad”. This familiarity with hospitality then led to her stint as a waitress in Nobu where she began to learn more about the food and beverage industry. Through it all though, she always dreamed of a culinary career.
Jess Was Largely Self-Taught, But That Didn’t Stop Her Success!
Before she entered the Masterchef kitchen, Jess picked up most of her cooking and baking skills from blogs and Youtube videos. To Jess Liemantara, nationality played an important part in her culinary journey, as her knowledge of Asian flavours always ended up finding their way into her dishes.
Her dad and grandmother passed on some recipes to her, and she credits them with encouraging her love of cooking. Jess tried out for The Great Australian Bake Off first but didn’t make the cut—so to Jess, the Masterchef Season 10 auditions was another chance to prove herself.
She struggled at the beginning; Jess admitted, “After not receiving an apron on the first day I was devastated and didn’t have a lot of faith that I would get in on my second chance cook. The opportunity to cook for the second time was such a blessing. I got to show the judges I really do want to fight to the very end.”
From A Shaky Start To The Top Four, Jess Became A Strong Contender
Throughout the competition, Jess would sometimes get frustrated or burst into tears during the competition, but this was mostly because she felt the pressure to deliver despite being the youngest competitor. Some of her most memorable Masterchef dishes include a dark chocolate mousse with salt and vinegar popping candy and a poached meringue snow egg. Her Indonesian background helped her develop unique flavour combinations that amazed the judges.
Jess continued to deliver during team challenges, and she became fast friends with other contestants, particularly fellow dessert lover Reese Highnell and social worker Brendan Pang. It was the close relationship between Brendan and Jess which led to speculation that they were dating.
Sadly for their fans, the two have remained silent on the matter. Jess has been pretty private about dating anyone—past or present. But even so, the pair appear to be friendly with each other, Brendan even stated that he was rooting for Jess to win the competition!
Her Strong Masterchef Performance Opened A Lot Of Doors
Jess performed consistently well in the competition, but she was up against some serious talent in season 10. Jess was unfortunately eliminated after her black sesame ice cream with peanut praline failed to impress the judges.
Her Final Four finish still disappointed many fans, as her endearing personality and grit had made her a firm favourite to win. Jess was grateful for the experience, though. “I am so glad I tried, even though I was inexperienced. I learned so much during my time in the competition and would surely not change a thing now.”
After her Masterchef stint, Jess embraced her future in pastry, cooking for Omnom and The Press Club. She also teamed up with Peter Rowland Catering to make ‘Jess Lemon by Peter Rowland’, an online dessert range featuring four of her exquisite sweet creations, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
One thing she has learned though is to pace herself better in the kitchen. “There are days when I just want to sit and relax but all you can think about is what I have to do next, what needs to be prepared and what if it doesn’t work or I don’t have enough time.”
What Is Jess From Masterchef Doing Now?
Jess mentioned that a cookbook is in the works, and with her penchant for whimsical plating, it’s sure to be a visual feast. She’s also popular on Instagram. With over 74.8 thousand followers, Jess is fond of posting pictures of her mouthwatering experiments, as well as giving updates on her new projects.
For Jess Liemantara, Masterchef Australia was just the beginning. Her latest food adventure? She’s preparing six-course degustations at Yagiz, known in Melbourne for fuss-free Turkish fine dining. Follow her on Instagram to check out her incredible culinary creations, from elaborate cakes to macarons in every colour and flavour!
Her passion for food will definitely take her places. “There is not one day where I don’t think about cooking or owning my own café, or even getting my desserts tasted by the public,” said Jess. “As they say, the way to success is to dream big and continuously talk your dreams to make them happen.”