Reality TV

Co-host of new reality show Dessert Masters, Melissa Leong talks childhood dreams, privacy – and French accents

'There's a line I don't cross'.
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As a child growing up in Sydney, with Singaporean-born parents, one of Melissa Leong‘s favourite desserts was ice kacang.

“It’s a combination of refreshing shaved ice, condensed milk, and all sorts of goodies – from red beans to jellies to lychees,” the Dessert Masters judge tells TV WEEK. “It’s a kind of pick-and-mix of all your favourite things in one bowl.”

Melissa Leong reveals she didn’t know what she wanted to do when she was younger.

(Image: Supplied)

Back then, the young Melissa wasn’t imagining a career in TV. In fact, she didn’t know what she wanted to be.

“Like many migrant children, there are expectations in the way we grow up in a different country – that is, to

do well at school and to go straight to university,” she explains. “And then you can start to make decisions about the way you want to live your life.”

All Melissa, 41, knew was that she didn’t want to live a “boring” life.

“What I wanted to seek was a life lived exceptionally,” she says. “And I pinch myself every single day, because I’m living my dream right now.”

Fans were shocked when Leong announced she would no longer be hosting MasterChef Australia.

(Image: Supplied)

Viewers were shocked when it was revealed last month that Melissa would no longer be a judge on MasterChef Australia and would front spin-off series Dessert Masters instead. The Melbourne-based foodie has explained that it’s a shift she embraces “with joy”.

Dessert Masters sees Melissa judging the delicious creations of 10 leading Australian pastry chefs, while standing alongside the “deeply talented, warm and wonderful, and very French” pastry chef Amaury Guichon.

“One would argue I’m currently living my dream TV role,” she says, adding that Amaury’s accent “doesn’t hurt”. “Show me one person who doesn’t love the phone book read to them in a French accent,” she laughs. “A French accent on anyone is a great thing.”

Amaury, who previously hosted Netflix series School Of Chocolate, is a “true professional”, Melissa says, something he has in common with her former fellow judges on MasterChef, Andy Allen and the late Jock Zonfrillo.

“When you work with people like Jock and Andy, who are so well versed and passionate about what they do, it’s a privilege to stand alongside them.”

Melissa will be co-hosting a new show called Dessert Masters.

(Image: Supplied)

Melissa, who was married to bar owner Joe Jones for three years, is known for guarding her privacy. She attributes that to her years as a journalist.

“I knew walking into this role would be challenging, because once you put it out there, you can’t take it back,” she says. “So I listen to my intuition in terms of what feels safe for me, and there’s a certain line I feel like I don’t cross.”

But she’s always been happy to talk about “broader human experiences”. “I’m a deeply anxious person from time to time. I also live with depression. These are things that affect all of us. I feel I can take that on, because it’s not about me – it’s about what it is to be human. To destigmatise certain issues, I think, is deeply important.”

Melissa says hosting is good for her as an introvert.

(Image: Supplied)

As an introvert, Melissa says shooting a show like MasterChef or Dessert Masters is good for her. “It’s a closed set,” she explains. “You work with the same people, day in, day out. The part that has me caused me to come undone a bit is the public side of things, when you go out and about.”

Because Melissa thinks she looks different on TV from how she looks in everyday life, she’s always “shocked” when people recognise her.

“But as an introvert, what helps me get through that is that people love this show I get to be a part of,” she adds. “If recognising me means a job well done by me, by every single person involved in that show, that’s a wonderful thing.”

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