“Changed My Life”: Poh Ling Yeow On Her MasterChef Australia Journey & What To Expect In Season 16

MasterChef Australia has finally returned back to our screens for 2024 — and we're hyped. A distinct shift in the MasterChef Australia landscape, the 16th season will now see four judges in the kitchen — returnee Andy Allen, French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, food critic Sofia Levin, and ex-contestant sweetheart, Poh Ling Yeow.
For Poh Ling Yeow, it's quite a full circle moment to be back in the MasterChef Australia kitchen — this time as a judge. The fan-favourite was the runner-up of the first-ever season of MasterChef Australia and has since gone on to host her own TV show, publish multiple cookbooks, and even become a prolific artist.

"It's been a real whirlwind for 15 years, and I literally feel like my feet haven't touched the ground."

Poh Ling Yeow
"MasterChef definitely changed my life," Yeow tells Refinery29 Australia. "It heli-dropped me into the centre of the Australian food scene. Five months after the completion [of the first season], I popped out and I was a household name!"
"But then I was really fortunate to have my own cooking show really quickly after I finished," she reflects. "I mean, it wasn't even two weeks after I'd come out of the show that I got offered my own TV show. It's been a real whirlwind for 15 years, and I literally feel like my feet haven't touched the ground."
Yeow tells me that there were many times that she thought that MasterChef was a thing of the past, but it kept squeezing its way back into her life — including returning for MasterChef Australia: Back To Win, guest judging, and now, finding a permanent place in the judging panel. "It's just this gift that keeps on giving," she laughs.
Yeow also explains that MasterChef Australia has allowed her to explore her identity more intimately. "On a personal level, I feel like it's allowed so many aspects of the more extroverted part of my personality to come out," she explains. "I'm largely introverted, but I knew there was this sort of performance side to me. There were things that I wanted to express all my life, but I've just been too shy to — and I think that very public validation really gave me so much in the way of self-esteem, not first in the eyes of the public, but even for my family."
"I feel like it really changed our relationship in a really positive way," she says. "I see it happening to the contestants as well... it's just so lovely to feel this close-knitness in a way that I've never felt before. And it's because when there's something like this to rally behind, it does bring people together."

"It's a return to home cooking, which is really important to me."

Poh Ling Yeow
When it comes to Season 16 and the new cohort of judges, Yeow says that the diversity in the judging panel means that fans will be able to see a wider variety of skills and perspectives in the MasterChef kitchen. " We have such different skills and personalities to offer the kitchen, so just by way of that, it's incredibly different," she explains. "Having a judge who's spent most of his life in a very traditional French kitchen is a really different vibe."
"It's a new beginning and the difference we have to offer is inherent to the fact that there are different judges," Yeow says.
But in news that will please fans, Yeow hints that the new season will be a return back to the old-school MasterChef Australia world, where home cooking is king. "It's a return to home cooking, which is really important to me," she says. "That's how the show started when I did Season 1, and I feel like we've managed to get back to that,"
She hopes that viewers won't just find entertainment from watching the new season, but might also take home some new tips and tricks to make their time in the kitchen more enjoyable. "Since the economy is so hard at the moment, I really hope that people won't just watch it for entertainment, but also have some value-added information to add into their home kitchens," she says.
Don't worry, we're picking up our frypans already.
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