My love of food grew from a very young age watching mum work the wok to create delicious meals for my family. Asian food has always influenced my style of cooking as mum’s ancestors were some of the first Chinese settlers to come to Australia and food has always been a way to connect to my family history.
After high school my adventurous spirit led me to a volunteering role teaching English in Vietnam where I first discovered street food. Everything about Vietnamese food excited me, it was fresh, vibrant, pungent, sweet, sticky and oh so delicious! I ate as much as I possibly could for the next 7 months before returning to Australia where I was determined to learn how to replicate the flavours I had fallen in love with.
Whilst studying a Bachelor of Communication (Media) at RMIT University, I hopped back on a plane and travelled to Sri Lanka and India for my next serve of culinary discovery. Sri Lanka opened my eyes to a plethora of curries I never knew existed – pineapple, cashew nut, tomato, okra, snake bean and even beetroot. At every turn there was a tasty treat waiting to be eaten, spiced lentil cakes, crispy roti, fresh jumbo prawns, it was a foodies delight and I had found my idea of paradise.
In 2008 I landed my first job in the communications industry where I worked in arts marketing for Circus Oz and then later for the Malthouse Theatre. Although my first professional years were often great fun, the amount of time and money I increasingly spent on looking up recipes and buying ingredients was alarming.
In 2011 I applied for the television series Masterchef Australia and to my surprise made it through the stringent audition process into the top 24. The judges were impressed with my knowledge of Asian flavours, my big smile and enthusiastic energy. I’m not afraid to say that I always wore my heart on my plate and was usually laughing or crying, but always happy.
It turned out that my hard work and determination paid off and I ended up coming fourth in the competition. My highlights during Masterchef included being the first person ever to win two coveted immunity pins, meeting my food hero Luke Nguyen, cooking lunch for the Dalai Lama and having my mum come and participate in one of the episodes.
Some might say I’m crazy but in 2012 I was invited back into the MasterChef kitchen to be part of a new series, MasterChef All Stars. Even though my stomach sank I quickly accepted the invitation and before I knew it I was cooking against MasterChef legends like Poh and Marion! It was a surreal experience being back in the competition, but it was a lot of fun and the biggest reward of all was winning $10,000 for my chosen charity Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Since leaving MasterChef (for good!) I have been busy cooking my way around Australia at live food events and festivals as well as cooking demonstrations for corporate companies like Coles and Bunnings. I have also been a co-host of Nova radio’s summer breakfast show ‘Tommy & Dani’ as well as being a regular guest of Hughesy & Kate show.
If you would like to meet me in person and cook for you, you can, I also host and cater private dinner parties.
I also proudly support the following charities: Starlight Children’s Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Australia (Ambassador), Live Below the Line, The Alannah & Madeline Foundation.