‘She Said The Weirdest Thing To Me’: How Poh Decided To Sign Up For MasterChef Season 1
Poh Ling Yeow’s name has become synonymous with MasterChef Australia, but she could have easily missed out on the show if it wasn’t for her eagle-eyed best friend.
Speaking to 10 daily ahead of the MasterChef: Back To Win premiere, Poh explained how she ended up filling out a form for the very first season of the cooking competition.
“My best friend is actually the person who put me onto it, she saw the website advertised on telly for the applications and she said the weirdest thing to me -- she said, ‘Hey, you should enter this’.
Poh replied quizzically, asking her friend, ‘what is it?’ which was a fair question because in 2009, the country was yet to experience the joys of mystery boxes and invention tests.
“And she said, ‘I”m not actually sure but I feel like you’ll go all the way’. They were her words, prophetic!” Poh laughed, adding, ‘She didn’t say I’d win’.
The idea appealed to Poh, a painter who has always experimented with different disciplines throughout her career.
“I’ve worked so many jobs -- I’ve been an illustrator, full-time visual artist, then I had a stint in the fashion industry as well as a hair and makeup artist and then food.
“So it’s always about exploring different creative disciplines and seeing how far I can push myself in those and then just seeing how they overlap, that’s always a really interesting thing for me to be multi-disciplined in many areas,” she said.
Poh told 10 daily that, in 2009, signing up to MasterChef was an opportunity to see if her lifelong love of cooking was something she could expand on.
“[I wanted to] see if my interest in food had stamina and if it was real and how I measured up against other people who thought they were good cooks in the country,” she explained.
Poh went on to become a fan favourite on Season 1 of MasterChef ,creating food that was “from the heart, cooking dishes that are familiar to me and that have memories for me” she told the judges back in 2009.
As she returns to the show for Back To Win, Poh explained that, with over a decade of learning under her apron, she’s going to use those newfound skills while still being very true to her culinary identity.
“I’m going to be the same person, strangely,” she told 10 daily. “ When I’ve been going through recipes that I want to make on the show, it’s very similar to what I made before: baking and Southeast Asian, baking, and Southeast Asian,” she laughed.
Having a strong sense of self and the determination to follow through on her intuition defined Poh’s time during Season 1.
“That’s why I made chicken rice for the final -- probably not the best, smartest move,” she chuckled of her Hainanese Chicken Rice finale dish.
“But it was very true to me, I refuse to make dishes that are just for the sake of… showcasing technique -- it always has to be something that I would put on my dining table if I had friends over.”
Just as her best friend predicted, Poh “went all the way” to the very first MasterChef Australia grand finale against eventual winner Julie Goodwin -- a showdown that went quite differently to finals of recent years.
One by one, the pair had to identify the as many ingredients as they could from a beef bourguignon to score as many points out of 20 as possible, followed by a chicken-based invention test and then a chocolate challenge set by Matt Moran.
And while Julie narrowly edged out Poh when it came down to points, Poh has no regrets about sticking to her guns.
"My food always has to be accessible to people who don’t even understand food," she explained.
"I think at the end of the day, food has to be yummy, and it has to be relatable."