‘If I Don’t Do It, I’m Not Doing My Job’: MasterChef Judge Melissa Leong Hits Back At Facebook Critic

Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia judge Melissa Leong
As the first and only female judge on the MasterChef Australia panel, Melissa Leong has faced a wave of criticism since joining the show in 2020 alongside Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo.
The food critic and reality star, who was nominated for a Gold Logie last year, has been scrutinised about everything from her personal relationships to how she carries herself on TV.
Over the weekend, Leong unapologetically hit back at a Facebook user who wrote, "Melissa stop stuffing food up your nose so appalling on TV (sic)".
The comment was made underneath a series of photos Leong had shared of her participating in a panel discussion hosted by The Global Cooksafe Coalition.
In her considered and eloquent response, the TV star explained that smelling the food she tastes on MasterChef is a crucial element of her role as a judge on the cooking show.
"Part of judging food is bound in aroma. It's a critical part of the way we professionally critique food," she wrote.
"Of course you wouldn't do that at a dinner party, but if I don't do it, I'm not doing my job. If it offends you, imagine how offended you'd be if it were someone just standing there to look pretty, but couldn't do the work!"
Leong, who doesn't often give oxygen to hateful remarks, still expressed empathy with the commenter.
"My experience over the past few years in this job tells me that usually when someone posts something designed to hurt or offend, that the writer is having a hard time or a bad day," she wrote.
"In that regard, I sincerely hope you're feeling better, but also that you learn to find ways of comforting yourself that don't involve attempting to pull strangers down."
Facebook/Melissa Leong
The comments came just a week after Season 15 of MasterChef Australia wrapped up, with Brent Draper crowned as the winner, and Rhiannon Anderson finishing as runner-up.
Leong similarly faced criticism in April — just weeks before the show kicked off — when a disgruntled viewer questioned her competence as a cooking show judge.
"They scraped the bottom of the barrel when they went searching for new judges. How many restaurants did she [Leong] have when they interviewed her? None. Was she a world renowned food critic like [former judge] Matt Preston. NO. As I said scraped the bottom of the barrel," read one comment.
Singaporean-Chinese Leong, who grew up in Australia after her parents migrated from Singapore in the 1970s, has worked her way up in the TV and food industries after studying economics at university. She was a co-host and judge on the SBS cooking show, The Chef's Line, in 2017 and 2018.
Speaking to Refinery29 Australia at the time, Leong said that the commenter's distasteful remarks highlighted the double standard that many people of colour face, not only in the media industry, but in other fields as well. They often feel they must work harder to prove themselves worthy of being where they are, as they simultaneously suffer imposter syndrome or face racial stigma in the workplace.
"In order to just exist in the same spaces, I don't think a lot of people understand that we [people of colour] need to be twice as good and work twice as hard," Leong said.
While her "career achievements may not be traditional or linear", she said she's proud of having carved her own path, informed by lessons she's learned along the way. 
"I don’t feel the pressing need to prove myself and my achievements to people, but that make no mistake, I have bled for my career and to suggest I got here by accident is quite frankly, ridiculous," she said.
As for what's next, Leong will be one of many local celebrities attending the 2023 Logie Awards in Sydney on July 30. Meanwhile, MasterChef Australia is set to return in 2024, with Channel 10 already sharing a casting callout for Season 16.
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