Diana Chan in the new season of MasterChef Australia S9
Chan simply can’t cook without salt

MasterChef Australia season nine’s Malaysian contestant is in the running to be champ

AS a child, Diana Chan would always stand by her mother’s side like a sentinel in the family kitchen. Curious, she would watch intently, memorise the ingredients and learn cooking processes.

Always keen to lend a hand in the kitchen, Chan’s love for cooking grew when she moved to Australia.

  The youngest of three siblings, she grew up in Johor Baru before moving to Kuala Lumpur at 17 to complete her A Levels. The 29-year-old then moved to Melbourne to study commerce.

An accountant by profession, Chan now calls Victoria home.

Crunching numbers aside, she enjoys cooking more than anything else.

As luck, or perhaps talent, would have it, Chan is among the top 24 contestants, and the only Malaysian, to be competing in Season 9 of the popular reality TV series, MasterChef Australia.

  “I think Malaysians in general are a lucky lot when it comes to food. There are just so many different dishes to choose from. My favourite is asam pedas, the spicier the better,” she says in a thick Aussie accent during a recent phone interview.

FRESH FOOD ENJOYED TOGETHER

Chan says she is mesmerised by the fresh ingredients that are so readily available in Melbourne’s food markets.

“Just the sight of these fresh produce excites me. When you cook with fresh ingredients, you don’t have to worry about putting extra care into your cooking. You don’t want to mess with the natural flavours.”

Chan adds that she simply can’t cook without salt. “Salt is such a magic ingredient,” she says, after a moment of pondering when asked about the one ingredient she just can’t do without in the kitchen.

“It’s the simplest of all the ingredients in your kitchen and yet so powerful. A little can make a whole lot of difference to your dish. It helps bring out the flavour in dishes.”

Chan loves how food brings people together and sees this as a big part of what she wants to do with her life.

“My life constantly revolves around food. I love the pressure of cooking for a large number of people. Seeing their faces light up makes me so happy,” she says.

CALM KITCHEN NINJA

For the most part, she credits her upbringing and a “boyfriend who constantly needs to be fed” for her ability to stay calm in the kitchen as she cooks up a storm.

Her calmness in the midst of all the frenzy has earned her the nickname “ninja in the kitchen”.

  “I can think on my feet. I think you can only do that if you know what you’re doing. It comes with years of observing my mum in the kitchen and cooking while living alone in Australia.”

Despite impressing the judges — Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Shannon Bennett, who also serve as the contestants’ mentors — with her talent in cooking, Chan wishes she knew what they liked and disliked.

“I wish I had a list of what they love. I think that would be a great advantage,” she says with a laugh.

KEEPING AN OPEN MIND

As for her future undertakings, Chan hopes to open up her own cafe. “It’s going to be a simple and casual one where I’ll whip up healthy, light and tasty meals. No fuss as I want my customers to sit down and just have really good food,” she says, before adding, “I’m leaving my options open, though.”

Chan loves watching food and travel-related shows. “So, if there’s an opportunity to become a travel and food host, why not? I’d love to try out different things. Amazing things can happen when you push yourself and don’t give up trying.”

MasterChef Australia Season 9 airs every Monday to Friday at 8pm and 11pm (encore) on Lifetime (Astro channel 709)

Pix credit Lifetime Asia.

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