The 2020 season of ‘MasterChef Australia’ is like no other for many reasons; new judges, previous contestants have returned, and the show boasts the most diversity in its 11-year history on local screens.
During a recent digital stalk of the contestants on Instagram (as you do), I came across a particular photo on Sarah Tiong’s account that made my heart sing.
But it signifies a lot more than that. In a time when representation in Australian television still has a long way to go, here are five culturally diverse women cast in the country’s highest-rating reality show.
The beauty of ‘MasterChef’ is that the contestants’ cultures shine through the food they cook. Whether it’s dumplings or curries or kebabs, the mouthwatering dishes can so easily transport viewers like me back to our home kitchens where rich ingredients and precious recipes have been passed down through generations, and undeniably help forge connections with our cultural heritage.
Many viewers recently praised new judge Melissa Leong for her choice of mystery box ingredients such as Chinese five spice, chicken feet and galangal.
After that episode aired, Singaporean Australian Melissa wrote on Instagram: “Chicken feet sensationalism aside, I believe that every part of our story makes us who we are, and I am proud of who I am and where I come from.
“I also believe if you eat meat, that you should learn to eat all of it, and not just the bits we find agreeable.
“Cultures across the world who are resourceful with everything they have, are some of the richest food cultures on the planet, from Italy to China and everywhere in between.”
She also recently acknowledged her casting indicates some progress in terms of cultural and gender representation on TV.
“I am aware that my presence signifies a positive step towards diversity in the media landscape and with that comes a responsibility,” she told HuffPost Australia.
“And while I take it seriously, I’m proud to be just a part of the groundswell; I do not stand alone.
“Together, we represent inclusivity, and a broadening of stories and perspectives, and it’s with pride that I walk forward in great company.”
Here’s hoping we see more of this on TV in 2020 and beyond.
‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’ continues at 7:30pm on Channel 10.