It’s been almost a whole day and I’m still thinking about last night’s MasterChef episode. I just can’t believe reality TV could ever hit me so hard, but here I am writing about it. In the words of brilliant judge Mel, “Damn you, Reynold.”

During Wednesday night’s Mystery Box challenge, contestants lifted the lid on something a little different: a family photo. I bloody love a good wholesome moment on MasterChef and this season has been chock-full of them. But last night was different. Instead of whipping up a plate of food out of random ingredients, contestants had to piece together a dish inspired by their family photo.

The pictures and the stories attached were a huge reminder of how diverse this season of MasterChef is. I definitely cried when Khanh shared his photo: a picture of him and his family when they first moved to Australia from a refugee camp. And I absolutely chuckled at young dorky Callum with the tiny fish he caught.

But what really hit me hard was Reynold’s story. I mean, the bloke is usually so stoic – cool as a cucumber. So to watch him crumble speaking about his parents, about how he never got to spend time with them because they were working themselves to the bone, crushed me. I rather watch a sad dog video than see Reynold cry. I said what I said.

What Reynold shared hit hard, not because I have the same story as his, but because I could completely understand where he was coming from as a kid of immigrants. I think that’s why Mel cried too. She understood him and his struggles.

Reynold’s words made me think about the sacrifices my own parents have made for me – about what it must have been like to move to a different country when you’re just a teenager, away from your loved ones, to learn another language, endure racism, discrimination, and still somehow come out the other end kicking ass. I don’t know a lot about Mum and Dad’s early life in Melbourne. I just know the bare minimum. That’s not to say we’re not close, we absolutely are – Mum is probably reading this right now, hi Mum! – but Asian parents are just different, you know? They don’t really talk about those things, about their struggles. They want to protect you from it. So their sacrifices and hard work are tucked away in a box in the corner of my mind. Then last night, Reynold done did busted it open.

I don’t write about being an immigrant’s kid often. The yarn I wrote last week – about the Asian representation on MasterChef – was the first time I’ve written about being Asian in the two years I’ve been at P.TV. Weird, hey? But that’s just how it’s been. I hadn’t seen these stories told on the mainstream before in the peak time slot, it never occurred to me that it was a subject I could even write about. I’m not saying that to get points or whatever, it’s just what happens when you don’t really see yourself in books or on screen. But watching Reynold and Khanh and Jess and Mel and Sarah and Poh and Brendan do their thing on Channel 10 five days a week – it’s affirming viewing. Listening to their stories and connecting to them fills me with confidence. It validates me, like I don’t need to hide in the shadows anymore. I think that’s all I’m trying to say here. That, and also I’m just really proud of the big Asian energy on MasterChef this season. Five Asian Australians in the immunity challenge tonight? You love to see it. 

Anyway, this made me laugh last night. And then cry a little bit.

A direct quote from my mum. Again, hi Mum!

Image: Network 10