What Melissa Leong Is Actually Like Behind The Scenes On Dessert Masters

Since Dessert Masters hit our screens, it's been sweet as pie. The new dessert cooking show sees ten of Australia's best pastry chefs, chocolate connoisseurs and baking experts compete for the title of the first-ever Dessert Master (and $100,000). But the judging panel is just as impressive, with famous pastry chef and chocolatier, Amaury Guichon, and of course, Melissa Leong — the former judge of MasterChef Australia.
Though Leong has now departed from her hosting gig on MasterChef Australia, she’s left a legacy behind, having worked with so many people in the food biz. We asked the Dessert Masters cast the question we all want to know: What is Melissa Leong really like behind the scenes?
Ahead, Dessert Masters 2023 cast members Kirsten Tibballs, Anna Polyviou, Jess Liementara and Kay-Lene Tan spill on what Melissa Leong is like to work with behind the scenes. Spoiler alert: it's all cute as punch.

Melissa Leong is friends with many of the Dessert Masters contestants

While watching Dessert Masters, it's impossible to not notice the close relationship the castmates have with each other. Contestant Anna Polyviou has previously said that the cast were no longer friends, but were "literally a family". As it turns out, that same closeness extends to their judge, Melissa Leong.
Yep, it turns out that Leong has been friends with many of the Dessert Masters contestants for years, with Polyviou revealing to Refinery29 Australia that much of the cast knows Leong personally. According to Polyviou, she used to work for Adriano Zumbo, while Reynold Poernomo and Liementara (obviously) worked with her on previous stints at Masterchef Australia, while Tan has known her for years. "We all know Mel because of the industry," she tells us.
These friendships have clearly spilled into the real world, with Polyviou sharing a heartwarming story of Leong getting her and her mother into a Michelin-star restaurant, after which Polyviou's mum packed her a Greek feast to say thank you. "My mother packed her halloumi, olive oil, lemons from the tree, and went and delivered it to her house with fresh bread to say thank you," she tells us.
Meanwhile, Tan told Refinery29 Australia that she has known Leong for a while now, meeting on the 2017 reality cooking show, The Chefs' Line. Since then, they followed each other on Instagram, have kept in touch, and have even shared the screen again during Tan's judging appearances on Masterchef Australia.
But rest assured, even with such close relationships, this doesn't affect Leong's ability to judge her peers impartially, and she tells Refinery29 Australia that judging people she knows isn't a problem. "Judging people I know is fine — we're all professionals and the respect flows both ways," she says. "I've worked hard to develop my skillset and so have they."
Image courtesy of Channel 10

"She's always so encouraging"

When we asked Dessert Masters contestants what it was like to work with Melissa Leong, there was a resounding theme across all answers — she was a joy to be around.
Contestant Kay-Lene Tan has spoken openly about her struggles with imposter syndrome. As it turns out, Leong was one of the key figures that helped her realise she deserved a place in the Dessert Masters kitchen.
"Melissa Leong has been such a great support in that arena," Tan tells Refinery29 Australia. "Especially being Asian, we have similar backgrounds — she's also Singaporean. With that, she's always been very encouraging and very supportive. Every time I've met her on set, she has really helped me along with dealing with this journey with imposter syndrome."
"She's always so encouraging. She always has a kind word. She's very respectful," she says. "There are no words to truly encompass the joy that it is to be around Melissa."

When the cameras stopped rolling, Leong would check on the contestants

When Anna Polyviou recounts her time on Dessert Masters with Melissa Leong, the biggest thing she emphasises is how supportive Leong was of the cast.
"At one stage, I wasn't feeling well. She's like, 'Can I get you anything? Are you okay?'. How nice is that? She really was concerned and wanted to make sure I was okay," Polyviou says.
Similarly, Kirsten Tibballs says that Leong's support was something that wasn't always shown on the screen. "She's backing you all the way. She's so supportive. And you don't always see that on the screen," Tibballs says. "But she really is quite nurturing and really pushing you to succeed."
Image courtesy of Channel 10

She'd comfort people after their cooks

In the Dessert Masters and MasterChef Australia kitchens, it isn't rare to see the contestants stressed and anxious after their cooks. Jess Liementara told Refinery29 Australia that Melissa was often one of the first people to comfort them.
"There are times when we'd feel a little bit low, we're feeling a little bit unconfident of ourselves after a cook and she'd always come around and make sure that we're feeling okay," she said.

Contestants believe she was a fair judge

Many Dessert Masters contestants have spoken about how Melissa was a fair judge and the perfect pick for the show.
Polyviou says that Leong and Amaury Guichon complemented each other incredibly well — a fantastic feat given that Guichon is one of the world's best pastry chefs.
"It was well-balanced," Polyviou says. "Mel knows food. I mean, she's a food critic. That's what she does. I liked her feedback and her feedback all made sense."
Liementara echoed this, stating that she and Amaury were a great combination. "They're not trying to be unfair. They're always very fair about a lot of the decisions they make."
There's a reason why Leong was so well received on the judging panel — the way she delivered feedback was an important thing to her. "I'm also a big believer in delivering feedback in a way that is constructive and kind, so hopefully, that helps the medicine go down as well," says Leong.
It's safe to say that working with Melissa Leong is an absolute dream. If anything, it's making me want to brush up on my baking skills in the hope to nab a spot in the next season of Dessert Masters alongside her.
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