Nat, Mimi & Sumeet Of MasterChef Australia Share The One Meal That Connects Them To Their Family

We know that food is a very personal and intimate experience. A dish isn't just a dish — it's a collection of all our family stories and memories, with recipes taught and cultivated over generations. In my family, the dish is the humble pea and ham soup — a go-to comfort meal in our home that was gobbled up on sick days, and a celebration of my late father's Dutch identity.
In the MasterChef Australia kitchen, stories like this are aplenty, with food embedded into the DNA of each home cook — not just because of a love of food, but also because of a love of family.
We sat down with some of the top MasterChef Australia 2024 contestants, Mimi Wong, Nat Thaipun and Sumeet Saigal, to chat about the one meal that connects them most to their family. Their answers will make you long for home, in the best way.

Mimi Wong

Authentic Cantonese home cooking: beef and broccoli, steamed meatloaf and fish, and corn, pork and carrot soup

For Mimi Wong, authentic Cantonese home cooking is the dish that connects her most to home. "Your classic beef and broccoli, egg and tomato, steamed meatloaf, corn, pork and carrot soup, and streamed fish," she explains. "All those good things!"
"Anytime I cook food like that, it feels equally as nostalgic and foreign to me, and it makes me emotional because I've come to learn that my love for cooking is so complex," Wong tells us. "It's so complex because it's in the same stroke as what brought me a lot of joy and success, but in that, I've also learned how to file through a lot of painful experiences and memories through cooking."
For Wong, the experience of cooking authentic Cantonese food is inherently bittersweet as someone who grew up between Hong Kong and Sydney. "Anytime I do cook or attempt to cook authentically based on my Mum's and Grandma's recipes, it just makes me sad," she says. "It makes me feel that there's an obligation there for me to protect that."

Sumeet Saigal

Mutton Biryani

For Sumeet Saigal, the dish that connects her most to her family is a simple mutton — or goat — biryani. Growing up in Bangalore, India, Sumeet shares fond memories of gathering around the table for Sunday lunch with her family.
"Sunday was one of those days where everyone was around... and the dining table is where we all bonded," Saigal tells us. "This was where we sat and devoured a beautiful big Sunday lunch of goat biryani — laughs were had, conversations were made, stories were told."
Saigal particularly remembers her grandfather sharing his life stories over the meal. "We were lucky enough to have my paternal grandfather live with us in Bangalore in my house, and the stories he would tell us at that dining table — talking about the times of the partition of India or the freedom fight [against the British colonisers in India]. His tales would just enamour us."
"Mum's goat biryani was definitely a highlight. Every time I cook it now, I'm transported back there," Saigal explains. "So I cook it now and again for the family here."
However, Saigal says that the traditions with her family now have shifted a bit, where she'll often whip up a roast dinner on a Saturday night, or have Friday chicken tikka evenings after a long week (with naan, of course).
"Food is a very central part of our family and it is the way I express my love, myself, and my care for my family," Saigal says. "It's such a beautiful expression of love."

Nat Thaipun

Thai street food

Frontrunner Nat Thaipun's food that connects her the most to her family is a bit broader than most, since it's inspired by the entire Thai street food scene. For the 28-year-old Australian-born Thai woman, her connection to her culture and memories with her family lies in the practice of street food cooking.
"Thailand has been trying to get rid of street food for so long," Thaipun explains. "When I went there, my dad just had a moment and was like, these foods don't have to disappear. You could try and talk about this on MasterChef."
Thaipun says that she feels a responsibility to keep Thai street food alive — and hopes to do so through MasterChef. "We have the responsibility to keep these dishes alive. Not so much tradition — things can change — but you can hold different parts of traditions," she explains. "It's so deeply rooted in family for all these street food places."
However, the budding cook also says that there is still a lot of judgement when it comes to Asian street food culture. "There's still a lot of judgement around that type of food and recognition that it's even a culinary skill to be making food like that," she says.
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