Melissa Leong Reflects On A Very Special MasterChef Moment Between Her & Poh Ling Yeow

Image courtesy of Channel 10
Melissa Leong, Poh Ling Yeow and Jock Zonfrillo on MasterChef Australia 2023
MasterChef Australia is not just about the delicious food, but the heartwarming stories about culture and identity reflected in the diverse cuisine that's served.
Tonight, Poh Ling Yeow returns to the reality TV show as a guest, tasking the contestants with a Mystery Box challenge as week two of the competition gets underway. Yeow became a household name on Aussie television after finishing as runner-up to Julie Goodwin on MasterChef Season 1 back in 2009. Then, in 2020, she returned for the all-stars Back To Win season, where her Malaysian Nyonya chicken curry blew all the judges away — particularly Melissa Leong.
Leong teared up after tasting the dish at the time, as it reminded her of her mother's cooking. The food critic — whose parents migrated from Singapore to Australia in the 1970s — is still moved by the special moment three years later.
In an interview with Refinery29 Australia that took place in early April this year, Leong said that moment was particularly special given international borders were closed at the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I remember being in this place where we all were during COVID. We just felt so separated from our families," she said. "One of the most magical things that I love about food is no matter when you eat it, it will transport you back somewhere really special. And for me, that's my mum's cooking.
"It's my heritage, it's the soul and the life force of why I do what I do."
So, for Yeow to have cooked that dish (which instantly reminded Leong of her culture) is something Leong will never forget.
"That was a moment in time that I'm so grateful for," said the TV judge. "Poh's the most extraordinary cook and the most wonderful person. So, who better to have cooked something that I felt that for, than her?
"[There's] our shared heritage of the Malacca Straits and Malaysia and Singapore. It's been a couple of years since I've been back and reminders of where you come from are just so important."
Tonight Yeow's setting the first Mystery Box challenge for the season, and teases in a promo that she's expecting the contestants to whip up "food that you can make out of not much".
She's one of several former contestants returning as guests this year, including Julie Goodwin, Emelia Jackson and Sashi Cheliah. Plus, in addition to MasterChef judges Leong, Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo (who recently passed away), there's a star-studded lineup of more guest judges, including Jamie Oliver, Curtis Stone, Maggie Beer, Rick Stein and Peter Gilmore.
There are 18 new faces on the show's 15th season, which is different to last year's season MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites, which featured 12 returning contestants from previous seasons and 12 amateur home cooks.
The contestants are Adi NevgiAlice Han, Amy Tanner, Andrea Puglisi, Antonio Cruz Vaamonde, Brent Draper, Cath Collins, Declan Cleary, Grace Jupp, Jessica PerriLarissa SewellMalissa Fedele, Phil Conway, Ralph Kahango, Rhiannon Anderson, Robbie CooperRue Mupedzi and Theo Loizou.
MasterChef Australia airs Sunday to Wednesday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.
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