MasterChef Australia 2024 judges

Photo: Channel 10

Poh Ling Yeow says MasterChef Australia 'represents multiculturalism at its best'

The cooking show has forged the culinary careers of herself and many other women of colour.

From the pressure tests to the mystery box challenges and nail-biting eliminations, there are various elements of MasterChef Australia that make it the unmissable watch that it is. Another aspect that judge Poh Ling Yeow values is the cooking show’s emphasis on embracing multiculturalism. 

Yeow – who rose to fame after finishing second on Season 1 of MasterChef in 2009 behind Julie Goodwin – says the program gives contestants and audiences an opportunity to explore diverse cuisines from all corners of the world, which ultimately tell a story about belonging, identity and connection.

“I feel like MasterChef is one of the absolute industry forerunners for that – it represents multiculturalism at its best,” Yeow tells Missing Perspectives.  “I think that's why the Australian MasterChef is so popular internationally as well.”

The TV judge refers to former contestant Reynold Poernomo as an example, emphasising one doesn’t necessarily have to only cook from their own cultural heritage either. 

“We have these wonderful crossovers where there could be someone like Reynold who’s a legendary competitor, [and] Asian, but loves to cook French desserts which are a largely French space. Then you’ll get an Aussie contestant who has travelled a lot and loves to cook Southeast Asian cuisine,” she says.

“I think because geographically, we’re positioned so close to Asia [so] it’s wildly multicultural. That makes it a very exciting watch.” 

We are now up to the final six contestants on Season 16 of MasterChef Australia, with four of these contenders actually being people of colour (Savindri, Darrsh, Mimi and Nat). 

MasterChef has strived to champion female cooks over the years. Of the 15 seasons up until this year, nine women have won MasterChef. Overall, the show has allowed many women from various walks of life to finally realise their culinary dreams and launch flourishing food and entertainment careers after cooking on national TV. 

One of the show’s most notable moves towards more female representation was the casting of Melissa Leong as a judge in 2020. She’s also a judge on Dessert Masters. Not only is she the first female judge, but the first woman of colour to hold the role. 

Meanwhile, Yeow joined the panel this year alongside fellow first-time MasterChef Australia judges, Sofia Levin and Jean-Christophe Novelli, as well as Andy Allen who’s been a judge since 2020. The new panel comes after previous judge Jock Zonfrillo’s death last year, and Leong’s departure to focus on other creative projects. 

In addition to the regular judging panel, every season features a lineup of well-known celebrity chefs who either do cooking demonstrations, set creative challenges or appear as guest judges.This year’s guest judges have included the likes of Anna Polyviou, Jamie Oliver, Mikiko Terasaki, Vincent Yeow Lim (AKA DimSimLim) and Nagi Maehashi from RecipeTin Eats fame.

MasterChef Australia judges Jean-Christophe Novelli, Sofia Levin, Poh Ling Yeow and Andy Allen with guest judge Jamie Oliver

MasterChef Australia judges Jean-Christophe Novelli, Sofia Levin, Poh Ling Yeow and Andy Allen with guest judge Jamie Oliver. Photo: Channel 10

In 2024, 22 home cooks entered the MasterChef kitchen for a chance to win $250,000 in prize money. They have been Alex Crisp, Darrsh Clarke, David Tan, Gillian Dinh, Harry Butterfield, James Holmes, Jonathan Hooper, Josh Clarke, Josh Perry, Juan De La Cruz Torales Villarreal, Khristian Walker, Lachlan Whittle, Lily Davies, Lourdes Leschen, Mimi Wong, Nat Thaipun, Savindri Perera, Snezana Calic, Steph Griffen, Stephen Dennis, Sue Bazely and Sumeet Saigal. 

MasterChef Australia airs Sunday to Thursday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.