‘It’s A Blessing And A Curse’: Melissa Leong Dishes On Being A Judge For The MasterChef Australia Franchise

Melissa Leong may have the best job in the world; tasting some of the country’s finest produce prepared by talented cooks on one of the best cooking franchises, MasterChef Australia.

But in an interview with 10 play, Melissa revealed her pet peeves in the kitchen, the difficulties of judging, as well as what it’s really like working alongside chefs Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen.

“The best part is that I have implicit trust in their ability and their friendship. They both have such a unique insight into food, and we learn, share and grow together in that regard,” Mel said.

“But you also can't do this job with such long hours and with such an intense kind of spotlight on you without people that you can trust and without people that you truly call friends. So, for me, I'm so lucky to call Jock and Andy my brothers and my close friends and people that I trust so much, not only with my friendship but also with my career.”

It’s no secret that the dynamic of the judges has brought a fresh, heart-warming feel to the show. But it’s the freedom to have fun and work the way they feel is best which really allows their personalities to shine through.

“It is one of the most fun workplaces you could possibly encounter. The crew are the best in the biz, the production company the best in the biz, and we are allowed to colour outside the lines and do whatever we feel is the right thing to do to bring the best out of the contestants.

“So, to be able to have so much fun with two cohorts like Jock and Andy, it really does make me feel like I have the luckiest job in the world.”

Despite that, Mel still has a few pet peeves in the kitchen, especially considering she has a strong appreciation for food and its authenticity.

“You can tell authenticity and so when I meet someone who is trying to be someone else creatively, and emulating someone else's style, or someone else's success, that doesn't really land very well for me, and there's always a bit of a disconnect.”

Instead, Melissa loves seeing each cook share their own stories through the food they serve up and she’s always there to support and encourage the contestants to find their own unique style of cooking.

“The best food, whether or not that's in someone's home kitchen or in the finest of fine dining restaurants, it's about feeling like the food comes from a very real place. That's what I prefer to see.”

But if there’s one thing she doesn’t believe in, it's food trends.

“Obviously food trends are an easy way to be able to explain to a general public what's happening in food, but trends sort of denote that people need to follow along, whether it be a certain style or a certain incorporation of a certain ingredient in order to be relevant.

“I think the most relevant food is food that comes from the heart and food that comes from a creative place of individuality. So, I'm not a massive fan of the terminology ‘trend’.”

Tasting and judging food all day long in the MasterChef kitchen may look like it’s relatively simple to a viewer, but it actually takes a lot more focus to be able to denote feedback to help the contestants.

“It’s a blessing and a curse. Of course, tasting and critiquing food is super fun. But you know, when we eat at home, we quite often eat for pleasure, so in the context that we're eating on the show in order to give feedback, it's about critical thinking. And it's about articulating that critical thinking in a high-pressure situation.

“So yes, it is fun. Yes, it is just food at the end of the day and not brain surgery. But what we do, we take very seriously.”

Watch Celebrity MasterChef Australia on Sundays and Mondays at 7:30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand