Last Night’s ‘MasterChef’ Was Proof Of Why Such Real And Raw Representation Is So Important

Five Asian-Australians all placing in the top was truly beautiful to see.

masterchef representation

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Last night’s Mystery Box was an emotional challenge for the MasterChef contestants and for viewers watching at home.

When the cooks entered the kitchen, they were greeted with a Mystery Box unlike anything they had been presented with before. Instead of being given set ingredients, each contestant was presented with a photo from their childhood.

While clearly an emotional trip for everyone cooking, the photos hit a lot harder for the people of colour in the room. Namely, for Khanh and Reynold who broke down in tears while talking about their photos, which reminded them of their struggles growing up.

For the normally stoic Reynold, talking about his childhood of having to essentially raise himself as his parents tirelessly worked around the clock in their family restaurant brought him to tears. But the tears reached their peak when Reynold remembered the moment when immigration actually took his parents away, leaving he and his brothers to fend for themselves, which understandably left everyone listening teary-eyed.

Similarly, Khanh’s story also tugged at the heart strings as he explained his family photo was actually from the day his family arrived in Australia when he was two. After being born in refugee camp, Khanh reflected that the move to Australia was “a massive change in lifestyle” for his family and himself.

While all the contestants’ stories about their childhood were moving, like Callum reflecting on his fathers death at a young age, to hear the struggles of first and second generation Asian-Australians was truly refreshing to see.

And as the episode aired, people begun to voice their joy over finally seeing some real and raw representation that was similar to their own experiences growing up. Despite Australia being such a culturally diverse country, stories of immigrant and refugee struggles and aren’t often shown on mainstream tv. That is, until MasterChef put these experiences at the forefront last night.

But beyond just Reynold and Khanh, Poh recounting her experience as an immigrant was also emotional to see. Explaining that she felt “invisible” as a child who migrated to Australia as a nine-year-old, Poh had always hoped that she would “make something of [herself]” which is a feeling all Asian-Australians can relate to.

A sentiment that Melissa agreed with as she explained that in the Chinese community there’s the idea that you should “always let [your parents] underestimate you… and then exceed their expectations”.

For people watching at home, this open conversation about the constant feeling of needing to make your parents proud struck a cord. For a lot of us who are immigrants or children of immigrants, seeing our parents or grandparents struggle to start new lives in new countries changed our measures of success.

This idea of “making your parents proud” is often a lot harder for people of colour, whose elders only see success in good test scores and high-ranking job titles. So for Reynold, Brendan, Poh, Khahn and Jess to follow their passions — that aren’t necessarily in line with their parents plans for them — and to succeed by all placing in the top five, was beautiful to see.

Plus, the normalisation of expressing emotion — especially as men — in a culture that recognises crying as a form of weakness was also very refreshing to watch.

This isn’t the first time that MasterChef: Back To Win has been praised for its representation on the show. During last week’s Comfort Food Immunity Challenge, the top four were tasked with revamping instant noodle packets — a task that many Asian-Australians do on the daily.

Before this, the Sushi Train Immunity Challenge saw major camaraderie between contestants when Emelia helped out Amina because she couldn’t taste her non-halal meat. Most notably, however, came early in the season when Melissa Leong was responsible for the week’s Mystery Box and filled it full of Asian-inspired ingredients like chicken feet and taro.

These little moments of representation throughout the series have made Asian-Australians across the country happy to finally see themselves on screen.

View this post on Instagram

This image is ground breaking. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Not only did these tremendous humans create the five best dishes yesterday (we judge dishes, not people), but I could never conceive of witnessing a moment like this on prime time television in my lifetime. ⁣Thank you @channel10au. ⁣ ⁣⁣ Diversity and representation does not come at the detriment of others, it is to 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.

A post shared by Melissa Leong | FOODERATI (@fooderati) on

But this hasn’t stopped racists from saying the show is becoming “too Asian” and claiming that there is a bias towards Asian contestants. It’s a very strange claim to make when there is only one Asian judge to two white ones, and when there has only been five Asian-inspired cooks out of the 35 challenges that have happened so far.

At the end of the day, Asian-Australians make up around 12% of the total population, so it can’t be all that shocking that MasterChef has managed to find a handful of extremely talented Asian cooks for the competition.

With this logic, it also can’t be too surprising that these Asian contestants managed to out-cook everyone else in last night’s Mystery Box challenge either — especially when the cook was fuelled by pure emotion, something they very clearly had plenty of.

‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’ continues at 7:30pm on Channel 10.