MasterChef judge: I’m the best person for the job
Melissa Leong is determined to prove she is the right woman for the job of taking MasterChef into the next phase of its reality television future.
Joining Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo in taking over from outgoing judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan, the food journalist understands she has big shoes to fill.
"It is a whole new era so it is not about replacing one thing with another," Leong told Confidential. "It is the next chapter, the next breath of air. We have an opportunity to be who we are, demonstrate our expertise and have fun in our own dynamic and that is what we are going to do."
Leong and her fellow judges will begin production on the next series of MasterChef Australia in the new year.
She is a food media consultant, journalist, TV presenter, cookbook editor and contributor to delicious titles.
"This is not my first rodeo on a network," she said. "I am the right person and the best person for the job and I hope to have the opportunity to demonstrate what I can do. The fact that it also brings into the conversation diversity and feminism as well, all the better."
Diversity is something Leong is very passionate about.
Food though is her biggest passion. In what might serve as a warning to prospective MasterChef contestants, she was happy to provide her number one bugbear in the kitchen.
"Add some salt, it is not hard," she said. "Taste the food. I think a lot of chefs work so hard and sometimes when you are in the heat of service, you don't always get to taste everything. As a chef, you have to think about your diners and what will resonate with them and their dining experience. Eating in your own restaurant is really important for a lot of chefs and I don't a lot of them have the opportunity to do that. A lot of mistakes that can happen in the dining room can be avoided by eating in your restaurant."
Leong also warned is not something to go into lightly.
"You don't go into hospitality for the money and it is hard, the hours are horrific and managing staff can be challenging," she said. "The drought and environmental considerations affect the cost of produce. It is a complex web, hospitality. If you ask any chef or anyone in hospitality, they wouldn't do anything else. There is a lot to be said for heart in this industry and I am very proud to be a part of it."