Speaking to B&T, MasterChef’s Melissa Leong spoke about life as a woman in the public eye, as well as what she does to keep herself happy and healthy.
Note: This interview took place before the death of fellow MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo.
As a television personality, Melissa Leong can often find herself on the receiving end of positive, but also negative press attention.
Her career in journalism meant she was aware of and considered before taking the coveted position as MasterChef judge.
“When you’re offered a job like this, with, you know, maybe possibilities attached to it, of course, you want to say yes, but I think there’s a part of me as it’s coming from a journalism background that really did think about that a little bit before I said, yes”.
“I quite famously said no, a number of times before I eventually accepted the job, because we had the great fortune of watching what happened to the former judges and MasterChef hosts prior to us”.
Whilst they had positive media reception, they also had their “private lives” dug into she said.
Talking about how she deals with negative attacks, Leong said “I’ve been brought up to be as tough as I can possibly be to weather the storms of life, but you’re still human, things still get past the goalie so to speak, and they do hurt because we are human”.
The toll of stress is something Leong is well-versed in after becoming ill in the past.
“I essentially worked myself into the ground and gave myself an autoimmune condition and Pyrroles. And essentially, what it entails is classic burnout, right? So I didn’t know what was going on with me. I wasn’t sleeping. Everything was just a little bit off-kilter. And I took myself to every kind of healing opportunity possible”.
She’s since put “protective measures in place” whilst filming the show.
“For me when I’m filming, my friends know now that they don’t see me very much my commitment is to everything that I can to the show. And so I live and breathe it for months at a time. And then when I get to come up for it, make sure that I take proper breaks.”
Her love of food also means she also regularly has a break from city life whilst experiencing the unique flavours of the world. Most recently her flavour pursuits have been closer to home.
“I just came back from a trip to far northwestern Australia,” she says.
“It really is such a very special part of the world is this ancient land that we that we stand on, and I’ve managed to see 120 million-year-old dinosaur footprints embedded in stone on a beach”.
“I think that as Australians, we should, wherever possible, really look at how lucky we are to be exactly where we are, as much as we have a great capacity to travel all over the world where we are right here is incredibly special.”
Speaking of staying in Australia, Leong recently had the chance to meet cooking legend Jamie Oliver right here in Sydney, as he featured as a guest judge on the show. I asked Leong what she thought of Oliver in the flesh.
“I’m really happy to report back and say that he is as lovely as caring, as generous and insightful, as you could imagine Jamie Oliver to be”.
“He’s definitely a hero that you could meet, and you would walk away not disappointed in the experience of meeting him”.