MasterChef’s Tommy Pham Says Melissa Leong’s Parting Words Made Him Feel Empowered
On Sunday, July 4th, Tommy Pham became the latest contestant to be eliminated from MasterChef Australia 2021 — just shy of finals week — after the steak in his fine dining Bún bò Huế was too underdone.
The perpetually upbeat Kindergarten teacher had quite the journey on the cooking competition, with the judges noting how much he had grown as a cook during his time on the show.
“I think the biggest thing for me was I wanted to make sure that I was having fun,” Pham told POPSUGAR Australia following his elimination. “And also that I was myself and I could just cook food that I love and put up good authentic Vietnamese food.
“I didn’t want to go on and put something together that I didn’t really love, because that is not what MasterChef is about. It’s about putting food that you love on a plate and hoping the judges love it too.”
The judges didn’t just love Pham’s food and evolution in the competition but also what his appearance on the show meant to so many people watching at home — something that Melissa Leong reminded him of as he bid farewell to the MasterChef kitchen.
“Hearing that from Mel definitely made my heart feel some way,” Pham said. “It just made me feel like so empowered that, me just being on the show and being who I am, made people feel represented. And that’s a big thing.
“In Australia, we’re so multicultural and yet people still feel a little bit left out. And me being on the show and being of Asian descent, made people feel like, ‘Hey, I could do that.’”
He continued, “Even little kids — I teach Kindergarten and I see the kids thinking ‘Mr Pham is Asian and he’s on TV, that’s so cool.’ It lets them know that they could do it as well.”
One of the toughest elements of the competition for Pham was definitely being away from his partner, Wendy and their young son, Miles — something which he noted was even harder than he anticipated. Happily, the time away made the reunion even more sweet.
“My reunion with Miles was everything I wanted it to be,” Pham enthused. “He remembered who his Dad is. He gave me a big hug and it was such a nice feeling to able to hold him and be like, ‘I’m going to be with you for a while now, mate.'”
Pham, who has taken time out from being a Kindergarten teacher, is now a full-time dad to his son and planning what comes next in terms of his food dreams.
One of those dreams involves a pop-up at Sydney’s Carriageworks where Pham will be selling his inventive Bánh mì Danishes which not only won the aspiring chef immunity during the competition but a permanent spot on the menu at Melbourne institution Lune.
“I’ve been experimenting with it and making sure that it’s perfect,” Pham said. “I’ve got a few partnerships with some bakeries and stuff to make it happen and it’s amazing to be able to get food out into the community.”
Noting how much MasterChef helped him to truly find his voice as a chef, Pham said, “It’s kind of crazy because when I first got onto the show, I cooked Vietnamese food that I had at home, and I didn’t really have so much confidence in myself. But then as I went on in the competition, with the comments from the judges, I learned so much so quickly.
“I just realised that I’ve learned so much about how to make food more interesting and more technical and I can’t thank MasterChef enough for the evolution of my cooking style.”
Another thing that Pham learned during his time on the cooking series? Just how much he hates washing up.
“The biggest thing that I cannot live without, but I could never probably get ever again, is having someone wash up all the dishes after I cook,” he laughed.
“The hardest thing about coming back is making a massive mess of cooking and then being like, ‘Man, I’m gonna spend the next half an hour cleaning up after myself!.’ That’s deadly, especially after a big cook.”
To keep up with Tommy’s food journey, follow him on Instagram @tommyphameats and be sure to watch the MasterChef Australia 2021 finale on Network Ten and 10Play on July 13, 2021, at 7.30pm.