Former MasterChef Australia finalist Audra Morrice finds herself on the other side of the stove now, as a judge of MasterChef Asia. The Australia-based cook says she wants to be the next Martha Stewart of Asia.

As a judge for Masterchef Asia, what advice would you give?

I came from 20 years in telecommunications but after participating in MasterChef Australia 2012, I’ve managed to open a catering business and do fun things like author cookbooks. So I know what it takes to give up a career and make a big change. I want to show contestants that they can achieve things if they really are passionate and put their minds to it.

What would be different about coming back now as a judge instead of a contestant?

Stepping into the MasterChef kitchen as a contestant is actually a very anxious affair because you have no idea about what’s going to happen. But as a judge, I want these participants to do a great job. I want to inspire, encourage, and push them to do their best each week.

We hear you’re coming up with a cookbook.

Yes. I haven’t decided on a name for it yet but it will include lots of delicious recipes from my upbringing in Singapore and East Malaysia! I’m planning to launch it in Sydney, London and Singapore in the later part of the year. As I’ve also spent a considerable number of years living in New Zealand and now, in Australia, so there’ll be a mix of Asian and Western dishes. For example, there’ll be the laksa, which my eldest son loves.

Name a dish where you combined the flavours of the East and West.

There’s this sticky tamarind prawn dish that I created for the Singapore Tourism Board. Fresh seafood is readily available in Australia so I take a couple of king prawns and marinate them with sticky assam sauce that is made with tamarind and gula melaka. They are then seasoned with black pepper and smoked salt, and pan fried. Coupled with herbs like Thai basil and mint, the dish is very flavoursome.
It’s important that as a chef, your cooking doesn’t alienate you from your customers. Rather, you’d want to encourage and educate them to try your cuisine. Most of what I do is my take on traditional cuisine and is constantly changing depending on my environment and the people around me. For example, when I’m in New Zealand, I would use raw salmon, a produce that is abundant there, and pair it with an Asian dressing.

What is an essential kitchen tool?
It’s important for me to have microplane graters such as a fine and coarse grater. They have to be incredibly sharp so you can get beautiful zest and the most flavour out of a fruit like a lemon or orange.

What are your plans for the future?        

During my audition with MasterChef Australia, the judges asked me about my ambition and I told them that I wanted to be the next Martha Stewart of Asia. That hasn’t changed for me. I absolutely love cooking and want to get people as excited about it as I am. To reach that goal, I’d have to build an Audra brand that showcases my love for cooking and entertaining with cookbooks and kitchen products.

MasterChef Asia premieres 3 September, Thursdays, 9.00pm Lifetime (StarHub TV ch 514)

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