On Sunday night, 11 years after her first appearance, Australia once again said goodbye to Poh Ling Yeow.
It was a lack of time and an undercooked curlugione (an Italian potato-filled dumpling) that spelled trouble for the MasterChef contestant.
As she bade farewell, Yeow was praised by viewers at home for her creativity and joy, described as a “national treasure” by MasterChef judge and food writer Melissa Leong, and celebrated as a trailblazer in Asian Australian representation on television.
In 2009 Yeow – then an artist and amateur chef – came second in the show’s debut season. This year, returning for an all-stars competition, she stood out for her creative dishes, fun approach, at-times unpredictable decisions and last-minute saves dubbed the “Poh-llercoaster” by judges.
On Sunday night’s program, fellow contestant Callum Hann, who came second on MasterChef in 2010, said the pair had been “mates for 10 years”.
On Twitter, viewers spoke about how Yeow was one of the first Asian Australian faces they ever saw on TV.
“You’ve always fought to show and represent who you are and to be proud of your [Chinese-Malaysian] heritage,” Leong said. “Millions of people around the world see you and understand that, and love you even more.”
Hann said: “What Australia gets to see is Poh’s incredible cooking skill, but what they might not necessarily see is what she is like as a person behind the scenes, which is a pretty incredible one, which is why I am feeling quite emotional.”
Yeow was eliminated on Sunday after making curlugiones with burnt butter sauce in a challenge that asked contestants to feature either potato, cauliflower or mushrooms.
Described as her redemption dish, she had previously made the potato dumplings in an earlier week, but had run out of time. She also set out to recreate a butter emulsion sauce that she had not successfully made earlier that same night.
Unfortunately time pressures meant that her sauce split again, and she replaced it with a burnt butter sauce at the last moment.
“Your pasta pleats – they were raw – and your sauce was rushed,” judge Andy Allen told her.
“I am a risk-taker and that is what happened today,” Yeow said, adding it was “humbling” to cook with the other returning contestants.
“You are a national treasure,” Leong told her. “Every day we could be guaranteed we would get all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your love and all of your commitment. And it has been the greatest privilege in this kitchen and cooking with us.”