LNY 2021 SPOTLIGHT: Melissa Leong
“If it has anything to do with the Australian food industry, chances are that Melissa Leong has written or broadcast about it, collaborated with, or has them on speed dial.”
When Masterchef Australia relaunched last year with new judges, one of the most welcome additions to the show was Melissa Leong who received rave reviews for her kind spirit and fierce drive to experience and share good food. She was also the first Masterchef judge of Chinese heritage. One of the things Melissa has consistently brought to MasterChef is an eye for Asian flavours, ingredients and cooking methods, as well as stories from the Asian Australian community. In one of her most memorable challenges, she asked contestants to prepare a dish with chicken feet!
Melissa was born in Sydney in 1982 to Singaporean Chinese parents. As a university student, she studied accounting and economics, and then went into advertising. But in a recent interview she said that the job left her unfulfilled, “fantasising about pushing her boss out the window.” Instead, she chose the next best option, to go into a career in food and cuisine. She worked as an editor for various cookbooks which are mainstays of the Australian food scene, and broke into TV, working for The Chef’s Line, Everyday Gourmet and The Cook’s Pantry.
In recent years, she has been open about dealing with anxiety and depression. autoimmune disease in her teenage years. She is an advocate of the need to find calmness and moments to slow down in everyday life. Something she did for two years while living in rural Tasmania, where she reset her expectations from her life and learned more about farming and how the food we eat arrives at our table.
Melissa has used her platform on Masterchef to speak out against racism and discrimination in Australia. She has said: “While I am proud to play a small part in the changing face of diversity and inclusivity in Australian media, let me be clear in saying that we are so very far from where we need to be.’’
“Whether it’s our ancient indigenous heritage or more recent multicultural contribution, representation of the different abled, or those who are fighting to be accepted for how they identify, or loving who they love, it is clear that we all need and deserve to feel seen and be heard. It is my hope in these difficult times that we can and will bring about lasting and positive change in this regard.”
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