Melissa Leong on being the first female judge on ‘MasterChef Australia’


New Delhi: Melissa Leong feels being the first female judge on the popular cooking reality show, MasterChef Australia, comes with great responsibility, to represent the underrepresented while doing a good job as a judge.

“Well, I wasn’t really thinking about that (the responsibilities) when I said yes to the job. I was thinking more about whether or not I could take on this role and do justice to it. That was the first and foremost thing that I always consider (while taking up the job),” Leong told IANS.

“Since taking on this role, I think it has been very clear that my being here means a lot to a lot of people. So yes, there is a responsibility to do the job well, and to represent people that have not necessarily been represented before. I think that is not just me being female, or not just me being Asian, but it also now opens up the consideration and the possibilities for all other forms of representation to be seen and to be heard as well,” she added.

It was announced last year that food writer Leong, chefs Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen would be replacing George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan as judges of “MasterChef Australia”. With the announcement, she became the first female and first Asian Australian judge of the show, ushering in a new era for the reality TV show.

Asked about the evolving food industry for women and people of colour, the food writer of Singaporean heritage said: “We still have a really long way to go.”

“But I think that it is a really good time to be a woman in the food industry. I think it is a really good time to be a person of colour in the food industry. For a long time, we have felt misunderstood or misrepresented, or we have had people speak on our behalf. Now, we have the opportunity to be heard in our own voices, and to express what we want to express the way that we wish to do that. And that’s really important because everybody, every human deserves that,” said Leong.

Leong has started shooting for the reality show and says shooting has changed a lot in the Covid-19 era.

“There have been changes like social distancing, and a few other elements in place. Getting on a food show means hygiene is already something that is paramount in terms of consideration, so that really didn’t change much,” she shared.

Leong continued: “But in terms of not being able to hug people or give high five, or do any of that sort of thing. It is difficult, but I think we are all very aware of how lucky we are to continue to shoot through such an uncertain period of time.”

She was recently seen judging “Junior MasterChef Australia 2020”, which streams on Disney+ Hotstar Premium in India. She is currently busy filming the next season of MasterChef Australia, which will air in 2021.