MasterChef winner Diana Chan almost didn't sign up. Here's why
Spoiler alert: we’re letting the cat out of the bag before the season finale of MasterChef Australia airs tonight. It’s going to be a nail-biting cook-off between frontrunner Ben Unger-mann and dare we say it before you see it... (drum roll) — the woman who claimed the coveted title by a single point — Malaysian-born Diana Chan! Not that this early announcement can in any way steal the thunder of the diabolical challenge in store for Indian viewers as a part of the two-hour marathon on Star World.
Given that the finale in real time wrapped up as early as July last year, we got a chance to talk to the 29-year-old who lives in Australia, outside of a pressure test, over a fun phone-in conversation. And the self-professed enthusiast of South Indian food surprises us when she reveals, “I was supposed to attend a friend’s wedding in Chennai last year, which I missed because of MasterChef!” Eager to visit this part of the globe and taste authentic flavours of favourites on her must-eat list while growing up — dosa and vadai — she adds, “I’m planning a trip to India soon and will hopefully get to eat a whole lot, shop and see an Indian wedding.”
Since her big win last year, Diana has had a whirlwind of change from her predictable job as a senior analyst at Deloitte. From winning 250,000 Australian dollars to extensive travel and public appearances, to designing and consulting for high-profile brands like the St Regis Hotel and Nestlé, to a possible food and travel show, her schedule has been choc-a-bloc. And although it’s only been five months since winning the title, Diana already has her own restaurant in the works, which will soon open its doors to patrons in Melbourne, where she is based. “I can’t tell you the name just yet, but I can tell you that it’s going to serve Asian fusion,” she says, her excitement palpable over the phone.
You may not need a ticket to Australia to get a taste of her food though. “I recently finished designing the in-flight menu for Malaysia Airlines, so my dishes are on the plane as we speak,” says the newly crowned celebrity chef. Ironically, none of this success would have happened if not for a push from someone near and dear. “I would cook all the time for colleagues at work, so everyone knew I loved to cook. But it was my boyfriend who sat me down one day and said, ‘Why don’t you sign up for MasterChef?’ And I said, ‘Oh I couldn’t be bothered to fill out the form!’” she recalls. Eventually, he suggested they do it together and filled out the form for her.
The question that Diana gets asked most though is how she plans to spend the 250,000 AUD fortune that she won on the show. And her response has evolved since July, when she spoke of using it on a restaurant business and upping the tourism in her home country Malaysia. Drawing from lessons learned before MasterChef, she responds at this point, “I think of it from an accounting background, so splurging it all on one thing is not the idea. I am putting a portion aside for the restaurant, but most of it is sitting in investments,” she reveals.
One ingredient you love:
One technique amateur chefs should invest time on:
Carving a chicken or filleting a fish. You get more value when you buy things whole.
Earliest memory in the kitchen: On the ground with a mortar and pestle, pounding chillies for my mom.
Watch the finalists battle it out in the finale of MasterChef Australia Season 9 today on Star World at 9 pm.