On the eve of Kim Tran and Suong Pham’s instant restaurant (Sun., Feb. 4 at 7 pm on Seven], the best mates are excited for Australia to see their Vietnamese cooking and eager for feedback from their families.
“My brother Tao saw the bus go by and he says, ‘Is that my sister?’” says Kim, 38, a stay-at-home mum of three in Melbourne who comes herself from a family of 11 siblings. “He was literally chasing the bus to make sure that was his sister on it. It kind of makes you feel like, ‘Oh yeah, he does care!’”
For Suong, 38, an accountant and mum of four, her traditional father “still can't grasp the idea of a female leaving her family so she can have a career or be on a TV show,” Suong concedes, “but my partner and my kids, they are amazing. The kids are, ‘I don't understand what the fuss is about.’ I said, ‘That's because you eat [Vietnamese cuisine] all the time and other people don't get to eat that.’”
The pair, who met in a dance group during Year 10, share a common heritage but not the same experience as immigrants in Australia. While Kim’s parents first arrived in New Zealand as refugees and sponsored their children in stages to migrate from New Zealand to Australia, Suong made the perilous boat journey when she was 3, stopping with her family at a Kuala Lumpur camp before settling in Australia when she was 5.
In Kim’s household, schooling was stressed, so even though Kim helped with cooking, “I was very fortunate that education was the main thing I needed to do.” she says. “There was no need for them to take me out of school to translate or anything like that; the eldest girl in the family would have done that for them already. At 16 and 17, I could grow up and do what I needed to do.”
By contrast, Suong was often called away from school to help family members communicate outside the Vietnamese community and soon started to chafe from strict, traditional expectations. “I can't wear shorts, I can't have short hair, I can't wear a singlet,” she recalls of her father’s rules. “You can't run because sports aren't for girls, you have to wear long pants and girls have to walk properly. It was very hard for me to accept.”
By competing together on My Kitchen Rules, Kim and Suong are hoping their love for cooking will bridge differences and change their lives. “It already has been life-changing,” Suong says. “Whether we win or not, for me I've won because in my heart, I've won myself. I've gained myself. First the time, for Kim and myself, we’ve put ourselves first. We’re on an amazing journey.”
To read more about Kim and Suong and find out what makes MKR’s feuding teams tick, pick up this week’s issue of WHO on newsstands now.