Historic moment from MasterChef Australia

Viewers respond to 5 Asian Australians all competing for Immunity, and making leaps & bounds for representation.

I’ve been writing about TV a pretty long time.

But I can’t recall any moment on Australian mainstream television quite like MasterChef Australia last night: here were 5 Asian-Australians all competing for a Reality TV goal.

Brendan Pang, Jess Liemantara, Khanh Ong, Poh Ling Yeow and Reynold Poernomo were all in the fight for Immunity.

This speaks to the diversity of 10 and Endemol Shine’s casting. Watching on were judge Melissa Leong and contestant Sarah Tiong, plus the remaining 6 contestants Callum Hann, Emelia Jackson, Laura Sharrad, Reece Hignell, Simon Toohey, Tessa Boersma and judges Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo.

While the Reality genre broadly embraces diversity better than Scripted, this was a compelling moment for representation.



As Poh Ling Yeow explained, “When I came to Australia all I wanted to do was fit in. I hated the way I looked. I hated the fact I came to school with fried rice instead of a sandwich. And as I grew I realised how much of these experiences of feeling on the outside fed me to become a stronger person and celebrate all the things that make me different.”

The diversity also didn’t end there. Khanh also told the judges his “Beauty & the Beast” dish had been something he had served up for his gay friends in the past (years ago a comment like that would probably have been edited out). Brendan Pang has also recently acknowledged he is in a same sex relationship.

Melissa Leong wrote on Instagram that it was a ground-breaking moment.

“Diversity and representation does not come at the detriment of others, it is for the inclusivity of us all. ⁣⁣ I am proud to be Australian. To be part of a nation whose identity is indigenous and multicultural, we are richer because of ancient and recent.⁣⁣
“To every person who never felt seen, this is for you, may it give you hope. To every person who is yet to feel seen, you are valued and your moment is on its way. We rise together.”

39 Responses

  1. Also what exactly did Reynold apparently say never heard anything about this. Also I wish the judges would stop putting an S on the end of Reynold’s name all the time he isn’t a plural

    1. Here’s a cut and paste from one of the articles about his comments:
      “I wish the world made a united decision where they will capture all gay people and put them on a remote island full of gays, that way straight ppl (people) will be happy and the freaks can go on and f… themselves,” Poernomo wrote.

      The then 20-year-old also added fuel to the fire when he chimed in on a forum thread that posed the question, ‘is homosexuality a mental illness?’

      “Yes, end of thread,” he said.

    2. You should also include his apology. “I would like to offer my sincere and deepest apologies for the comments that I made in 2014. I am ashamed of these comments and I regret them immensely,” Reynold said in a statement.
      “At the time these comments were made, I was a very immature, close-minded and insular 20-year-old. I have grown and matured a lot in the last six years. I am not the person I was back then.

      “I have many friends and colleagues that are part of the LGBTIQ+ community. I wholeheartedly support them and care deeply for them. I am truly sorry and apologise for any offence or hurt they caused.”

      1. Unfortunately David I am a very sceptical person when it comes to apologies made after someone has been caught out. The facts are he was not a child when he made the comments, six years is not a long time ago and during this time he did not remove the offending posts.

        Personally I have found that people who make these types of comments “do not change their spots.”

        I hope I am wrong in this case.

        1. Yes. Comments are bad, apology seems genuine. They were made 6 years ago which would put him at about 20 yrs old. I’m mindful that Daily Mail which ran the story is constantly running MasterChef clickbait (as they do for popular shows). So I find myself with a dilemma…. am I participating in such journalism if I rework the story? And I’m not sure I know the answer to that….

          1. Thank you for your reply David. I truly hope his apology is genuine and not a hollow gesture after being caught out. It would be a shame to cast a shadow over what has otherwise been an amazing series of Masterchef.

          2. I will just add that Clickbait usually refers to false or misleading articles. Unfortunately this time it looks like they were reporting facts. Cheers.

  2. Like many readers before me, the fact that I didn’t even notice the cultural heritage of the contestants until pointed out to me by this article says a lot about the wonderfully diverse society that is Australia. And whilst you’re reading… isn’t it great to see an amateur cooking show that focusses on the cooking as opposed to a certain amateur cooking show of another network that is more concerned with playing up some fabricated personality conflicts between the contestants?

    1. I’m the same I mean I did realise they had about 8 Asians all up in the series which is great, but I also didn’t even realise that all of them that night were up for immunity together. I’m just a boring white Australian I love the diversity even though there are only Asians and Caucasians no black or brown this season mmm 😜

    1. But to be fair it’s not an either / or situation. Look at the Sharouk family winning Family Food Fight, look at the Indigenous / Asian / trans/ drag / gay / seniors / disabled on All Together Now, or the diversity in Australia’s Got Talent and Ninja Warrior. The Voice is also doing it right now. BB already has announced a range of ages to 61. Broadly speaking reality does this better, if in some shows more than others.

  3. Nice to see, and even nicer that viewers focused on the quality of cooking, not the demographics. But I would like to mention that this picture would be very unrepresentative of this regional area. Not all of Australia is inner city diverse.

  4. Like many I didn’t notice either, but they were all very deserving of being in the immunity challenge. Before any of them cooked this season, I figured Poh would be the one to beat, but I’ve changed my mind. While we all know Brendan is amazing, I think Jess is amazing also and not just because of her age.

    I’d love to see Brendan and Jess in the final.

  5. The revamped Masterchef is some of the best reality TV I’ve seen in a very long time. Genuine camaraderie, brilliant casting, mad skills. The fact I’m obsessed with Asian cuisine and have already tried some of Khanh and Sarah Tiong’s recipes is just icing on the top.

  6. Can only imagine what this would mean to people of those family bloodlines watching from home. It must feel especially good in light of some of the bullshit that has been going on in the community from some imbeciles as to anyone Asian looking getting harassed because of the blame on China for COVID-19.

  7. I did actually notice this but didn’t fully appreciate the significance whilst watching. The fact is, all five were totally worthy of their place in the challenge. This season has really let us get to know everyone on screen (including the judges) and I’ve been absolutely loving it. I am dreading the hug-free elimination on Sunday though.

  8. Reynold is the rock star, the others are good but he is a standout. As regards diversity etc….I don’t really care, it was just good to watch regardless of people’s background

    1. I think your comment comes from a good place, but i just want to say, its ok that the rest of us care.about this amazing display representation. They were the best cooks on the day, but we care because they were there to be the best cooks on the day, and we care because nothing mattered but their cooking.
      Perhaps some people who ‘don’t care’ don’t care because they have always been represented on TV. Not everyone has been in that position… so let’s let everyone care in celebration without pointing out that one doesn’t care because one has never had to.

  9. I have to admit that I hadn’t noticed. I just saw 5 great contestants. What I am loving this year is the banter between the contestants. I am not sure if it is because the contestants already know each other but the camaraderie is brilliant. The way they support each other should be the blueprint for all reality competition shows in the future.

  10. I’ve seen TV shows in the past be described as ‘comfort food’ for viewers, particularly during times of crisis. I remember Friends being called that for US viewers after 9/11. This show has been my ‘comfort food’ during the pandemic. It’s been such a pleasure to watch.

  11. Poh’s comments pulled at the heartstrings. A similar story was told recently by former Miss Universe Australia, Francesca Hung when she recounted how she was teased and bullied about her looks at school – at look at her now! Absolutely stunning, and so much stronger for it.

    MC has been out of this world this year. Truly great television and this makes me happy. A real credit to those involved in the production of the show and a credit to the producers who elected not to meet the demands of the “greedy three” previous judges who united in an “all-or-nothing” stand-off, and got nothing!

    The taste of success is oh so sweet!

  12. Love this! MC has always been great in the diversity stakes, but this series has been the best yet.
    So many feels in that ep on Wed night when everyone was looking at their childhood pics and talking about their back stories.
    IMO this has been the best series of MC since the really early years. Everyone involved in revamping the show following the previous judges departure has done an outstanding job.

  13. I can honestly say that I didn’t even notice, love them all. Hard to find a favourite as I think they are all great but special mention for Reynold. He really is amazing.

    1. I was the same, didn’t notice at all. Masterchef really lets you know the person and doesn’t bring ethnicity into it. Well done to the producers having such a diverse cast of likable people.

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