‘The Flavour Of Home’: MasterChef Australia’s Steph Woon On Making Desserts That Embrace Her Southeast Asian Roots
The Victoria-based banking analyst is vowing to impress the judges with her penchant for sweet treats this season, while also embracing her cultural heritage in the kitchen.
As the daughter of Malaysian immigrants, Woon has grown up in Australia appreciating the traditional cooking in her family home. That experience, along with living abroad in Japan for several months, has helped form her dream of opening a patisserie one day, serving Japanese and southeast Asian-inspired cakes and pastries.
"I think over the years I have learnt to embrace my heritage a bit more," Woon tells Refinery29 Australia. "It's something that I crave more of, not just savoury but also desserts like traditional Malaysian Kuih and all of those things that that are harder to find, unless you go to Singapore or Malaysia."
Woon believes there's a great opportunity to adapt techniques and flavours from these eastern dishes and put her own twist on more popular desserts in Australia.
"There's just not a lot here [in Australia], so I've learned to make it from my aunts in my family. I've really learned to embrace it and incorporate it into what I know traditionally with western desserts, and try to combine some of the flavour combinations to come up with something," she says.
This season, Woon goes up against 12 former MasterChef contestants (called favourites) and 11 other amateur home cooks like herself (the fans). She's a big fan of Emelia Jackson, Poh Ling Yeow and Julie Goodwin, the latter of whom is also competing this year. But she's also particularly fond of ex MasterChef stars Jessica Liemantara and Reynold Poernomo (founder of Koi Desserts), who have also taken inspiration from their Asian backgrounds and launched successful careers specialising in cakes and desserts.
However, Woon believes what she's got in store for us is different and can complement the diverse offerings of these cooks.
"I mean, our styles are different," she explains. "Koi Desserts and what he [Reynold] does is so incredible, and Jess as well who's on a similar playing field — what they do is incredible and I think my style is slightly different, but at the same time, they're the goal."
Woon knows she's not alone in craving these sweet treats, especially given the diverse Asian population in Australia.
"I think as a child of someone who's immigrated from Malaysia and having friends in that whole area as well — we're all Australian-born Chinese — you kind of crave it and everyone appreciates it and it's just the flavour of home at the end of the day," she says.
Woon is already feeling right at home on MasterChef this season, and it's only a matter of time before we see the rise of more scrumptious baked goods from her.
They go up agains the favourites which are Julie Goodwin (Season 1), Billie McKay (Season 7), Sashi Cheliah (Season 10), Alvin Quah (Season 2), Michael Weldon (Season 3) Mindy Woods (Season 4), Christina Batista (Season 5), Sarah Todd (Season 6), John Carasig (Season 7), Aldo Ortado (Season 10), Minoli De Silva (Season 13) and Tommy Pham (Season 13).
Watch the promo below for Sunday night's episode which features the first elimination and the jaffle challenge:
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites airs Sunday to Thursday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10Play.