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MasterChef Judge Who Loves Indian Spices

Last updated on: June 06, 2022 12:48 IST

'The Indian dishes I am most excited to taste are the ones I haven't encountered before.'

IMAGE: Melissa Leong is just as passionate about fashion as she is about food.
All photographs: Kind courtesy Melissa Leong/Instagram

Say hello to MasterChef Australia Judge Melissa Leong -- better known as Mel on the show.

A food and travel writer, restaurant critic, television show host and cookbook editor, Mel joined MasterChef Australia in 2020, alongside fellow judges Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen.

It's her third consecutive season at MasterChef Australia and Mel continues to rule hearts on the show as the judge 'who draws on that human connection to celebrate stories of others through food'.

Mel is known for her impeccable sense of style and flawless make up, and her Instagram timeline -- she goes by the handle @fooderati -- is filled with pics of delectable food from her travels and her kitchen.

Voted as Who Magazine's Sexiest Person of 2020, her love for fashion is obvious and her choice of outfits is proof that sustainable modern fashion can be chic -- for one of the episodes, Mel wore a dress made from recycled marine plastic, below.

For the many fans of MasterChef Australia, what you should know about Melissa Leong:

IMAGE: Mel, left, dressed in an outfit made from recycled marine plastic. Right: Mel sports an animal print jumpsuit. Both looks have been created by Kitx, an Australian sustainable fashion brand.

"Genetics play a part," she says about her youthful appearance. "I am proud of the Asian genes that have given me good skin and the features that make me, me".

"I've pretty much looked the same since I was 25, but one day when I'm 80, I will look 1,000 years old overnight: That's the Faustian pact Asians made at the dawn of time."

Her beauty tip is simple: There's no substitute for adequate water consumption, nutrition, sunscreen and sleep.

She feels lucky to have the world's best job -- tasting delicious food prepared by talented chefs. But being a judge on the show has its downside too.

"It is a lot, to balance judging, energy, all of that, for so many months. The show is a behemoth, and a season is like running a marathon -- it pays to pace yourself," Mel reveals.

"Anyone who cooks in the MasterChef Australia kitchen will tell you that every challenge levels you, no matter what kind of experience you have gained before walking into the kitchen."

IMAGE: The kind of lace she'd prefer to wear.

"Sitting on the floor of my parent's kitchen with my grandmother, watching her pound chillies for sambal with a mortar and pestle while mum picked bean shoots and stirred broth," is her earliest memory of cooking and food.

"It is clear as day for me now, even though I must have been about three."

Today, a regular meal at Mel's home "depends on the day and whether it's a quick throw together meal, or cooking for her family."

"I have spent too much time around chefs to plate up things that don't at least attempt to look good, as well as taste good.

"Where you are, what the food means in the scheme of a memory or an experience -- there is no comparison."

IMAGE: Adopting her cats Ghost and Ghoul were the best decision Mel says she has made.

She loves Indian spices and has amazing spice tolerance. "I am Singaporean," she says, "so you better believe I can handle spice."

"I cannot live without garlic, ginger and shallots. I think they would revoke my license to be Chinese if I didn't love them!

"But I love so many spices -- the earthiness of turmeric and cumin, the aroma of smoked paprika, the aniseed quality of fennel."

She is excited to try Indian dishes. "Honestly the Indian dishes I am most excited to taste are the ones I haven't encountered before," says Mel, "that's the great privilege of learning and growing through new experiences."

You can watch episodes of MasterChef Australia on Disney + Hotstar.