TV

MasterChef Australia fan favourite Poh Ling Yeow on her return to the show as a contestant this season

Poh says she has missed the element of fear that comes with competing for top spot.

When news broke last year that MasterChef judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris were leaving the show, rumours about who would replace them began circulating immediately.
The name of fan favourite Poh Ling Yeow popped up often.
Yeow had returned to MasterChef Australia in 2019 as a mentor alongside season eight runner-up Matt Sinclair and season seven winner Billie McKay, and many fans saw her as a potential judge in the show's 12th season, which kicks off later this year.
But this year Poh is returning as a contestant for the Back to Win season and the 46-year-old says that puts her right where she wants to be.
"I was a mentor last year and I'm back in the other side, but I enjoy being on this side better. I love the competition," Poh told Now To Love Australia.
"[As a mentor], I was so distracted by my own thoughts about what I would make if I got that ingredient.
"I miss the thrill of going into a space when you're really fearful of what is going to happen and being able to dig deep and produce a beautiful dish that you would never think of making."
She says the judging role was not offered to her and if it had have been, "I would have had to think about it deeply".
Poh Ling Yeow says being a contestant is right where she wants to be.
Viewers have held a certain fascination for Poh because she has an interesting back story when it comes to her love life.
Poh married her first husband, Matt Phipps, in 1990 when they were both practicing Mormons.
They divorced after nine years and Matt went on to marry Poh's best friend of 20 years, Sarah Rich.
Poh, in turn, went onto marry Jono Bennett, who she met on MasterChef, where he worked production assistant.
In an interview with Mamamia Poh claimed, "Everyone tries to complicate it for us. From the outside in, they're all like 'love triangle'! And I'm like, 'no'! He's like my brother now and I think … people are never interested in the back story. They want everything to be sordid," Poh said.
"He's my ex-husband. She's my best friend. And when we broke up, they got together and it's all dandy. It's actually really good," Poh said.
Eleven years on from being named runner-up to Julie Goodwin in MasterChef's debut season in 2009, Poh reckons there are some fun advantages to cooking in the MasterChef kitchen rather than out in the 'real world' in the hospitality industry.
Poh's Jamface by Poh cafe, based at Adelaide Central Market, closed in 2019 after operating for three years, but she is about to open a new Jamface cafe at Melbourne Airport.
"In real life, you can't just put things on your menu that you love and you think are delicious," Poh says.
"They have to fit into economic parameters, and not everyone loves to eat what you love to eat."
Filming for the series is in full swing, and Poh says whatever the result, the connections she has made with her co-stars have already made her feel like a winner.
"I've made a lot of incredible friendships on the show," she said.
"It's a real hot house of energy and inspiration. It's going to be a ripper season."
She also has nothing but praise for the show's three new judges - Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo - saying they are doing "such an amazing job".
After the show wraps Poh has a number of projects she wants to get underway.
"I want to make my own TV and take the reigns a bit more, and I'm at the cusp of doing that," she revealed.
She is also doing a bit of freelance recipe-writing and has become an ambassador for Audible, a provider of audio books.
Viewers were shocked when it was revealed in July last year that the "three musketeers", Matt, Gary and George, would not be returning to the show as judges.
Network Ten claimed they had failed to come to an agreement with the three men over how much they were being paid.
"It was time to move on, have more free time to explore our own creativity," Gary explained in a Facebook post.
"It was never about the money and never will be about the money. We couldn't agree on the term of the new contract for 2020. Something we felt very strongly about.
"The opportunity to work with Matt and George has been a blessing and something I cherish. Working together will continue to be the most important thing for us.....the three musketeers."
Matt Preston also took to Facebook to say that it was with "a heavy heart" that he was confirming the trio would be leaving the show.
He said they were "really keen to continue" but were "unable to agree to all of the terms for the new contract".
"We have met some beautiful people, discovered and guided some of the brightest up-and-comers in the Australian food scene" and worked with "the best chefs in the world" as well as "the TV industry's finest professionals", he continued.
He said he, Gary and George had formed "a lifelong friendship".