Adam Liaw, a 31-year-old media lawyer of Malaysian heritage, won the finale of Australia’s MasterChef on July 25 2010 to cook up massive ratings, making the reality show the most-watched, non-sporting event ever shown on Australian television.
The televised great debate between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was brought forward to 6:30pm so that it did not clash with MasterChef finale shown on Network Ten. And the move paid off. In the end, the political debate attracted almost as many free-to-air viewers as the cook-off.
Viewers across Australia tuning in to watch the finale reached a peak of 4.348 million. This year’s MasterChef finale saw Liaw, whose parents are from Malaysia, beat Callum Hann, a 20-year-old engineering student from South Australia’s Barossa Valley to win the coveted title and the prizes of A$100,000 and a cookbook publishing deal.
Adelaide-born Liaw beat Hann with advanced food knowledge and tasting skills, claiming the win with a score 89 to Hann’s 82 out of a possible 100.
Judge Matt Preston said Liaw won because he was “highly skilled” and had an “intellectual approach to food”.
Liaw will now turn his thoughts to relocating back to Australia after six years living in Tokyo as a media lawyer.
A tearful Liaw dedicated his win to his grandmother who was by his side shortly after his win, saying that her influence on his cooking was “enormous”.
“She’s been there for me throughout my entire life and she’s been a huge influence not just in my cooking but in everything,” he said.
He was joined on the set by his girlfriend of two years, Asami Fujitsuka, and father Dr Liaw Sia-Lin.
When growing up in Adelaide, there seemed little doubt that Liaw’s world would eventually centre around cooking.
“I first remember cooking when I was eight or nine and living with my mum and stepfather,” said Liaw, a young protege who completed Year 11 at age 14, enrolled in university, two years later and graduated as lawyer at 21.
“With my step-brothers and sisters, there were eight of us kids in the house and once a month, it would be the kids’ turn to make dinner.
“We moved around a bit when I was younger, like over to Malaysia, and there would always be some kind of food that I had loved — and wanted to cook — for the whole family.”
Liaw’s mum and step-father moved to New Zealand when he was 14, but he stayed in Adelaide where he lived at his grandmother’s home.
He lists her as a food inspiration, but it wasn’t until he was studying science and law at the University of Adelaide that it became a passion.
MasterChef Australia is an Australian competitive cooking game show based on the original British version of MasterChef. It is produced by FremantleMedia Australia and screens on Network Ten. Restaurateur and chef Gary Mehigan, chef George Calombaris and food critic Matt Preston serve as the show’s main judges.
If you would like MasterChef recipes or more info about the show, head down to their official website.