“I was left to my own devices in the kitchen sometimes, and I would *try* to cook with sometimes varying degrees of success.”
“I was probably about ten or eleven [years old] at the time. Thinking I could make pasta with beef stock cubes - which was not my finest moment. Just making a sauce out of beef stock cubes? It’s a world first [laughs].”
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Melissa Leong is currently at Uluru with fellow judges Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen for a special MasterChef challenge where contestants work with Indigenous Australian communities.
Speaking of the show’s diverse representation, the fan favourite judge also touched on the power seeing yourself on screen has for both the young and old.
“Well, it’s that quote right, ‘if you can see it, you can be it,” Melissa said on the radio program. “We say it to kids to give them the idea that they can be anyone they want to be when they grow up, and I think the same thing when it comes to cultural representation.”
“If you can see someone that you can relate to, in some way, doing what you would love to do or never dreamt you could do, I think that’s really special. I didn’t think about any of that when I first started the job, but the resonance has been widespread and it’s something I take very seriously and to heart.”
Last season’s MasterChef was celebrated for having some of the best representation of Australia’s multicultural identity in the history of Australian television, with half of the top ten contestants made up of Asian-Australians.
And, after last night’s episode, it seems like it’s fair to say this season will be no different. In this first episode alone we watched Tommy, a young Vietnamese-Australian man talk to his mum in Vietnamese on national prime television; Kishwar, a Desi mum who’s sacrificed everything for her family finally chase her dream and share her Bangladeshi culture; and Minoli, a South-Asian Aussie woman, who previously lost her sense of taste, make a six-dish Sri Lankan feast.
While these people come from varied cultures and have different stories, they are united by two things: a love for food and as a collective ensemble of ethnic diversities often overlooked by commercial television. Just like last year, MasterChef has proven that it’s the wholesome love letter to food and the multi-faceted and multicultural communities that make up our greater society.
MasterChef Australia returns tonight on Channel Ten at 7:30pm. For more on the contestants, click here.