MasterChef Australia‘s Nat On Why She Draws Inspiration From Anthony Bourdain — Both In The Kitchen & In Life

MasterChef Australia's Nat Thaipun has already inspired many home cooks thanks to her innovative take on Thai cuisine. The 28-year-old barista takes inspiration from her Thai roots and her deep connection to her culture, but there's also one chef in particular that inspires the MasterChef frontrunner: the one and only Anthony Bourdain.
The MasterChef Australia contestant shares that when it comes to the celebrity chef, author and travel documentarian, it's his spirit that she connects with the most. "There's so many different parts of Bourdain that inspire me," Thaipun tells Refinery29 Australia. "He's so raw and honest and genuine."
Thaipun especially admired the late chef's ability to speak candidly about his mental health. "His raw ability to talk about his mental health — I think that's really important," Thaipun says. "With Bourdain, he'd just be talking about such real things that other people would say, 'Oh, you can't bring this to the table'. It's not even just politics — it's just life."
Despite Bourdain tragically taking his own life in 2018, Thaipun says that what stands out to her was his ability to acknowledge both the good and bad things in life. "It's that whole idea that you can embrace life," she explains. "That you can have days that are shit — and you should talk about it or acknowledge it, rather than just constantly just pretending that everything's okay all the time."
For Thaipun, this resonates deeply. The budding cook says she regularly has the same conversations with people, often over a plate of food. "There's this part of me that I feel like I do that quite a lot now — I'm quite open about that [mental health] now because it opens up other people about it," she says." "And when you have food as a vessel, it really helps."
Considering the state of mental health in the hospitality world, it's not hard to understand why more of these conversations need to be had. Several Masterchef contestants have also struggled with their mental health, which is unsurprising given the high pressure and high stakes. Research from the University of Cambridge in 2023 found that the hospitality sector had the highest rate of mental illness, with one in four people reporting mental health problems such as depression.
"I think that's what the culinary world really needs," Thaipun says. "He's very honest... I definitely aspire to be someone like him."
As an Australian-born Thai woman, Thaipun also resonates with how Bourdain approached and championed food from non-Western countries, especially in his show Parts Unknown and his classic book, Kitchen Confidential.
"For someone who came from such traditional training, he loved Vietnamese food," Thaipun shares. "He shone so much light [on other cultures] and helped so many cultures be acknowledged by other cultures, especially Western ones. I think that's beautiful."
If you or anyone you know is struggling with your mental health, please contact Lifeline (131 114) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636). Support is available 24/7.
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