A freelance food and travel writer, media consultant, radio broadcaster, television presenter, MC, cookbook editor and one of the new Masterchef judges- if you haven’t heard of Melissa Leong, you will very soon.
A girl crush of mine for quite some time, I fangirled (a lot) when I was introduced to Melissa over email in my role as commercial food editor. In hopes of one day being as cool as her, I took a gamble and asked if I could interview her for my blog, and she said yes!
Melissa isn’t just the coolest person out, she’s also smart, kind and a huge advocate for diversity. She knows a thing or two about hard work and has a wicked sense of style (begins searching for hair turbans)
I hope you enjoy this very exciting post where Melissa shares insight into where her love of food comes from, what it means to freelance and shares her favourite Sydney hotspots.
We may have lost her to Melbourne, but Melissa is Sydney born and raised, so we won’t let our Victorian neighbours take all the credit!
If we strip back all labels, can you share who Melissa Leong is?
I’m unapologetically me: a sum of my cultural heritage, my family story and the experiences I’ve accumulated in my life, to date. I believe in living life as though this is the only shot. I’ve become fiercely supportive of the things that are important to me, like diversity, feminism and fairness, because I’ve battled those issues personally, and to a degree, feel like I’ve gained some ground not just for myself, but for others as well. I like to work hard, and commit to the ideas that mean something, so while this is a ‘career aside’ question, work and working hard is very much a part of who I am, to the core. I don’t think any child of a migrant family knows anything otherwise because we owe it to them to make their sacrifices worth it.
Where did your love for food come from?
I maintain that my love of food was sparked by my parents, who migrated to Australia from Singapore. Singaporeans are obsessive about good food and while I have made a point of learning what I know, I owe a lot to them and to my cultural heritage.
What advice do you have for those of us who dream of going freelance but are scared to make the leap?
Freelance isn’t a full-time holiday, and it isn’t impossible… it’s for those who are disciplined with their time, know how to hustle and are self-motivated. If you dream of anything though, just give it a go! What’s the worst that can happen? You go back to being employed by someone else? So what! At least you tried.
How do stay authentic and true to yourself in an industry like media?
Give zero fucks about what people think of you. No matter who you are or what industry you find yourself in, staying true to yourself involves self-acceptance, and knowing that happiness is driven from the inside out. There is also something to be said to listening to your gut: it is rarely wrong.
Do you ever feel a sense of imposter syndrome? If so, how do you overcome it?
I think everyone does when they start something new and find out they’re not half bad at it. How do you overcome it? KEEP FUCKING GOING. One day, you will know you’ve earned it.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten?
Crazy is relative. I prefer to approach food I find unfamiliar in the same way: use my senses to assess it, understand the context and history, try not to invoke my own bias against it. In Cambodia, I ate deep-fried tarantulas and crickets… all part of the daily diet there, as much as it might feel strange to a modern Australian palate.
+ THE SPEEDY SIX:
FAVOURITE PLACE TO EAT IN SYDNEY: Right now? Ragazzi.
FAVOURITE BAR: Continental Deli, Newtown
FAVOURITE SPOT IN SYDNEY: I really miss Parsley Bay now I live in Melbourne
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO: A lot of 80’s hair metal.
THE LAST BOOK YOU READ: On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans. Essential reading for every human.
YOUR LIFE MOTTO: Work hard. Don’t be a dick.
Photo credit: Amelia Stanwicz for The Design Files