MasterChef Australia 2024 judge Poh Ling Yeow

Poh Ling Yeow's extraordinary journey from MasterChef finalist to judge

The TV star returns to the cooking franchise 15 years after her MasterChef debut.

MasterChef Australia has managed to make household names of many ambitious home chefs, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that Poh Ling Yeow is probably one of the most recognisable alumni from the famous TV kitchen. 

Now, 15 years after her reality television debut, Yeow is set to be a judge on the very show that catapulted her to success in the food and entertainment industry. The 50-year-old will be on the judging panel alongside Andy Allen, Sofia Levin and Jean-Christophe Novelli, marking the first time that the Channel 10 program has four regular judges tasting the contestants’ dishes. 

MasterChef absolutely changed my life,” Yeow recently said in a first-look promo of Season 16. “Being here now, in a new capacity as a judge, feels like a beautiful full-circle moment.” 

Growing up in a Malaysian Chinese household in Australia after migrating from Malaysia at age nine, food has always played a huge role in Yeow’s life. But she hadn’t actually considered it a profession until her MasterChef audition in 2019. Prior to that, she studied design at university and then worked as a graphic designer, makeup artist and illustrator.

“I worked as a freelance graphic designer and makeup artist for many years before pursuing full-time painting,” she told HuffPost in 2020. “I was about six years into my art career and earning a decent steady income. It was around that time that I also started becoming obsessed with food.”

She then decided to audition for MasterChef in 2009 after her friend Sarah suggested it. 

MasterChef Australia 2024 judges Jean-Christophe Novelli, Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and Sofia Levin

MasterChef Australia 2024 judges Jean-Christophe Novelli, Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and Sofia Levin. Photo: Channel 10

The first season of MasterChef is unquestionably one of the most memorable for millennial Aussies because, of course, it’s the first time we’d seen such a cooking show on our screens. For two women to then reach the grand finale made it even more monumental, with Yeow ultimately finishing as runner-up behind the winner, Julie Goodwin. 

But coming in second place didn’t stop Yeow from culinary success. Later that year, Yeow landed her own cooking series on the ABC called Poh’s Kitchen. Three seasons aired between 2010 and 2012, and she was nominated for Most Popular New Female Talent at the 2011 Logie Awards. In 2015, Yeow’s love for food and the silver screen continued when she launched a new series on SBS titled Poh & Co

In more recent years, we’ve seen Yeow pop up as a guest judge on MasterChef from time-to-time, plus she appeared in the all-stars Back To Win season in 2020. 

In 2023, the TV star joined forces with ex MasterChef winner Adam Liaw to host Adam & Poh's Great Australian Bites on SBS. 

Apart from cooking up a storm on the screen, she’s also leaned into her penchant for desserts with her own Jamface stall at Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market most weekends. She has also maintained her creative streak by continuing to paint and draw, and shared with fans earlier this month that she was selling one-off prints to the public. 

Filming kicked off a few months back for the new season of MasterChef, with Channel 10 revealing that three episodes have been filmed in Hong Kong.

Yeow said shooting in Hong Kong was particularly special for her.

"Hong Kong was another full circle moment for me," she recently told Missing Perspectives.

"I got eliminated just before the show went there in Season 1 but it was worth the wait. I’ve left with my mind crazy with inspiration for Chinese food again and missing the possibility of a midnight bowl of beef brisket noodles.

With just over a month until MasterChef Season 16 hits screens, we can only expect Yeow’s about to become Australia’s favourite food darling all over again. 

MasterChef Australia 2024 premieres on Monday, April 22 on Channel 10 and 10 Play.