About Me

About Me

My

Story

I remember it all clearly – as a young girl, I followed my mum and grandma to the fresh food markets in our village. Our village is remote with a population of no more than 30,000 people. There were no supermarkets, no Woolworths… Nothing like the big cities in West Malaysia – far from it. Our markets were wet, natural light was scarce, and they were jam-packed full of people shouting and haggling for bargains. The place was filled with the natural aromas of fish, meat, vegetables and everything in between. Some of the sights and smells were really not forgiving at all, and for first-timers, sensory overload was certain!

Half the time, I couldn’t bear the noise levels and I would just tell my mum I would be standing by the street food stalls. It was so fascinating to see all the “uncles” and “aunties” cooking different styles of street food and the aroma was truly captivating. Most kids would be attracted to sweets but for me it was the smell of the cooking! My mouth couldn’t stop salivating. Sometimes if I stood there long enough, they would offer me some tasty bits. And with that, I started to cultivate my passion for food and wanting to learn more about it – the fresh ingredients, the spices, noodles, and simply enjoying the eating and creating process. I also had the opportunity to “play” at the spice store just next to the food stalls, learning about the different texture and colours. The uncles and aunties would use them sparingly in their cooking – particularly the curries and chilli fried noodles.

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My story cont.

As you can imagine, in a small village, getting an oven was really a very difficult and expensive thing to obtain. Nevertheless, my Granny truly wanted me to be happy, and secured an oven for me.  She then started to teach me how to bake, and how to use the oven.  From there, I joined local baking competitions and won numerous awards for best cake designs, and my confidence soared.

At the same time, my parents were concerned about me spending too much time on food and little on education. In typical South East Asian culture, education is prioritised above everything else. My parents nagged me constantly, and despite the unbearable pressure they placed on me, I put my food aside and studied really hard for the pride of my parents. In 2006, I came to Brisbane, Australia to further my studies and I graduated as a Biomedical Engineer from QUT. Since then, I’ve worked as an Engineer, before proceeding to become Sales Coordinator and Media Host for the South East Asian Market (especially for Chinese visitors) for the Tangalooma Island Resort. The ability to speak 4 languages and understand cross-cultural values is one of my strong advantages.

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What people don’t know is that my love affair with food and my dream to become a successful chef has always been deep inside my heart. I opened my heart to my then boss and told him about my passion for food – how I always wanted to regain my confidence, to prove to myself that I can share my food language with everyone. I told him that I wanted to join MasterChef Australia, that it had been a dream of mine for the past 3 years and I’d never had the guts to do it. He was very supportive and encouraged me to enrol. I spent a considerable amount of time with my hubby to discuss how I could reconnect with my passion, now that I had the support of my boss. Eventually, after much deliberation, I decided to give MasterChef Australia a go.

MasterChef 2014

MasterChef

Australia 2014

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It feels like yesterday that I enrolled myself for MasterChef.  It was a daunting task, I was truly scared and uncertain how I would fare. I had followed my heart and was fortunate to be in the audition. My Sarawak Laksa simply took the judges’ breath away in the preliminary round – according to them, skilful use of spices had brought out the best laksa ever in the history of MasterChef!  From that moment onwards, I was coined the Spice Queen Emily. No one in the preliminary competition in other states were further allowed to do curries because producers felt that they had found “the one”. I actually felt bad when I learnt that. Sorry guys if you are reading this. I hope you and me are at peace!

The next day I waited for the call from MasterChef. I didn’t go anywhere and literally sat at home next to my phone. The phone rang and it was the call from the producer – I had succeeded in making the Top 10 in Queensland! I was so excited. They told me there would be another selection round, once they had scouted all the other states: New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. In doing so they would gather the Top 50 in the country, to do a cook off on national television to become the Top 24. In January 2014, I received another call from the producer; my heart was throbbing so fast and cold sweat was forming on my forehead. I was congratulated and was selected as one of the Top 50 contestants in the Season 6 MasterChef Australia 2014. I was so excited that I cried so hard and told my hubby that I had finally gotten into MasterChef.  I went into the office the next day and told my boss the great news, and thank him again for giving me the opportunity to follow my passion.  He was so happy for me and supportive of me to pursue my dreams, and with that, off I went to Melbourne with my hubby and my friend.

It was so surreal to be in MasterChef’s kitchen and seeing the 3 judges, Gary Megihan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris was just a dream come true! I was the first to be called in to cook and I was scared beyond belief. I did my signature Sarawak Laksa again and I was so happy that 2 out of the 3 judges loved it! Matt Preston said he had better laksas in Asia, and I agreed with him. I was tensed. I was confused. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. I’m not good at managing pressure in such a highly tense environment. I thought I did well, and as it turned out, did well I had done. I was the first to be selected among the Top 24 contestants of MasterChef Australia 2014. I broke down and cried and cried so hard, I almost couldn’t breathe.

The rest is history and the MasterChef experience was so wonderful and amazing. Yes it had its moments. Many times, I felt left out and didn’t know better what to do in a shared environment. I may not have gone as far as I hoped but it was a great experience nonetheless.

After the wonderful experience at MasterChef, I decided to give up my Media Host job and devote my life to chef’s white! If you were to ask me, what made me decide to do that? The answer is simple: it is my passion and my deep-seated interest in cooking simple, honest and tasty traditional food stems from my cultural heritage of mix Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and East Malaysian Aborigines.  It is the flavour, texture and variety of the freshest Asian ingredients that allows me to push the boundaries and less conventional.

It also brings back lots of childhood memories too. For me, food is made for sharing and talking – there’s nothing I love more than to cook for my family and friends, sharing delicious different foods all around one big table.

For those who followed me through that wonderful journey, thank you so much for your continued support and for those who are new to my website, welcome aboard! I can’t wait to share my experience, my wonderful journey of my chef’s life, and beautiful Asian street food with everyone! It makes your tummy happy, my tummy happy, and me happy!

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FOOD IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF LOVE