Winner of MasterChef Australia 2017
By Billie Ooi-Ng Lean Gaik
It’s all about pushing boundaries. Do something different. Don’t be safe.
The little girl watched as her mother cooked, brewed and worked the wok in the kitchen, surrounded by herbs and juicy ingredients. She was never allowed to do the important tasks or even near the bubbling stove. As she stood there watching and absorbing with her big and beautiful eyes, nobody would have guessed she would one day take the grand trophy of MasterChef Australia 2017.
The air was galvanised when one million viewers watched judge Matt Preston award Diana Chan 9/10 for her dessert, just one point ahead of her toughest competitor. As the confetti rained down, Diana Chan, MasterChef Australia 2017 held the trophy jubilantly in her hands.
“I’ve always loved food. Mum is a Nyonya (Straits Chinese) from Singapore, while Dad and grandma are from Penang, Malaysia.”
At 19, Diana landed in Melbourne to pursue her tertiary education in accountancy. “I had a good palate and I wanted to enjoy great food but could not afford to eat out all the time. So I headed out to Camberwell market and immediately fell in love with the fresh produce, the sights, sounds and aroma of the market. I got very inspired. Didn’t know how to cook but I never stopped trying until I got better. Watching a lot of cooking shows helped too.”
While her true inspirations are her parents, Diana quoted a few favourite chefs. “I watch a lot of Yotam Ottolenghi. He reminds me of my mum who is herb-driven and uses a lot of vegetable. Simple to replicate but very tasty. George Calombaris is a progressive chef, who is very passionate about his restaurant The Press Club while I learned how to try different things from Anthony Bourdain.”
Remember your core values and be proud of your heritage. People can see through you if you are trying to be someone else
Diana wooed MasterChef judges with her spatchcock and abalone in green juice, oatmeal prawns in creamy curry sauce and a near-perfect creation of the Kirsten Tibballs dessert. “I just broke down and cried after my last cook. The pressure was so high, I was overwhelmed.”
To all the 2018 contestants, “It’s all about pushing boundaries. Do something different. Don’t be safe. At the same time, manage your expectations. And I always say get a lot of sleep. The hours are long and mentally stressful, as in any winning kitchen.”
Basking in the light of champions, Diana sees a restaurant in the pipeline. “Three things resonate with me – wholesome, fresh and fusion. These are the things I look for in a dish. I want to have a lot of input in the menu so that people can associate me with my food. With my accounting background, I plan to manage the business side too.”
While taking in all this publicity and success, Diana is also quick to give back to the society. Close to her heart is beyondblue, a non-profit organisation working to address issues like depression, anxiety disorders and related mental disorders.
“My dad’s best friend once said to me, ‘Never lose your compass’. Never forget who you are and where you come from. Remember your core values and be proud of your heritage. People can see through you if you are trying to be someone else.”
一个小女孩看着妈妈以娴熟的手艺在厨房里转悠着，锅炉周边飘散着香料酱汁的浓郁味道。但她从未被委以重要的烹饪工序，甚至不被允许靠近冒着热气的炉子。当她站在那里以美丽大眼睛凝望这一切，没人能想到有一天她会拿下 2017 年澳大利亚顶级厨师的冠军奖杯。
这个拥有100万观众屏息观赏的厨艺竞赛，当评判 Matt Preston 为她所制作的甜点打下9分（满分10分）的时候，气氛完全被引爆，因为这个分数只比她最强力的对手高出1分。五颜六色彩带雨点般落下时，澳大利亚大厨晨爱琳 (Diana Chan) 捧起奖杯脸上挂着圆满的笑容。
即使她真正的灵感源自父母，但也推荐了一些心仪的厨师。“我看了很多 Yotam Ottolenghi 的美食节目。他让我想起了我母亲，善于运用香草和蔬菜搭配，非常简单易学，但味道很好。至于 George Calombaris 是一位勇于进取的厨师，他对自己的餐厅 The Press Club 充满激情；而我也在 Anthony Bourdain 的身上学习尝试不一样的东西和接受挑战。”
至于晨爱琳在顶级厨师大赛中呈现给评判烤鸡和鲍鱼配绿果汁，奶油咖喱麦片虾和近乎完美的 Kirsten Tibballs 甜点制作。“我只是在最后一次完成烹饪后哭了，那时被强烈的心理压力淹没。”
而她要给予 2018 年参赛者的建议: “一切都是为了突破界限。做些不一样的尝试，不要太固守自封。同时，管理好自己的预期，我总是说确保睡眠必须充足，在任何赢取胜利的厨房里，时间漫长且精神紧绷。”
Photography shoot conducted at Little Collins St Kitchen, Sheraton Hotel, Melbourne