MasterChef’s Sav Clapped Back At People Criticising Her For ‘Only Cooking Sri Lankan Food’

We’ve reached the spicy end of MasterChef Australia. We’re just episodes away from finding out which finalist will become the winner out of the talented contestants: Nat Thaipun, Savindri ‘Sav’ Perera and Josh ‘Pezza’ Perry. But this week, after making the top three cut and cooking one of the best dishes the competition has seen, Sav clapped back at the ongoing criticism she has received — that she only cooks Sri Lankan cuisine.

On Tuesday’s episode, Sav made Lamprais — a Sri Lankan dish which originated from the Dutch Burgher people. It’s made from chicken bone stock-infused rice, chicken and pork curry, Seeni sambal, eggplant, plantain, meatballs, and toasted coconut belacan, all wrapped up in a transportable banana leaf.

As the judges tasted her dish, they were so blown away by the depth of flavour and technique that judges Sophia Levin and Poh Ling Yeow were brought to tears.

“I think this is my favourite thing I’ve eaten in this competition to date,” Sofia exclaimed.

You can watch the beautiful moment below.

The special moment was a huge win for Sav, who shared on Instagram that she had spent months perfecting the dish. And, in 90 minutes managed to smash out a dish that usually takes her two to three days. HUGE!

“This is the one dish in my repertoire I didn’t learn from my mother,” she wrote.

“It’s the one dish I wish we cooked together. I spent over 9 months of my time researching this dish, pouring over old archives at Lake House Colombo, and speaking to many Dutch Burgher aunties in 2018. Then I trialled it a hundred times. This dish really is my baby in many ways. It is my life’s work.”

(Image: Instagram / Sav Perera)

But despite the judge’s rave reviews and the incredible amount of effort and skill needed to perfect a dish with so many intricate components, flavours and nuance, Sav still received criticisms from viewers about the dish. These criticisms aren’t anything new, either. Throughout the season, Sav — along with some of her fellow Asian contestants — received constant (dare I say, racist?) critiques from viewers that they lacked creativity and only cooked “what they know”.

In response to people bashing her Lamprais, Sav took to her Instagram Stories.

“It has been overwhelming to see the response to my Lamprais. Amongst all this, I have had the misfortune of coming across a lot of ignorance.

“Comments targeting the appearance of the dish — calling it a ‘mish mash’, comment saying how it’s not ‘fine dining’, it’s ‘just a curry’, ‘there’s no technique’.

“Whilst my first reaction is to get fired up about this, it’s actually deeply saddening and indicative of how incredibly Eurocentric people’s views STILL are on what’s considered ‘technical’ and ‘fine’.”

Sav went on to praise the judges and the MasterChef production team for understanding the “skill, technique, instinct and precision” involved in creating culturally significant dishes on the show.

“More than ever, what these comments have shown me is that I ABSOLUTELY made the right move in representing my Sri Lankan heritage,” Sav continued.

“The more we talk about our cuisine with pride, with unapologetic fondness, the more we get to shine a light on its value.

“I may not have grown up seeing a brown woman cook the dishes my mother cooked for me on TV and be praised for it. But today, I got to give that gift to a little girl watching me somewhere.”

Helllooooo top three!!! (Image: Channel 10 / MasterChef)

Ever since MasterChef hit our screens in 2009, the series has pushed the boundaries of what Australians understand as delicious, top-tier food. I will never forget the finale for Season One when Poh Ling Yeow famously plated up a century egg. The multi-coloured, pungent item was so foreign to Australian audiences at the time, but the judges’ open mind and delight at the dish she plated, was just one step in breaking down the stigma surrounding food from other cultures.

With each season of MasterChef, Australia’s food literacy has continued to grow and flourish. But as we’ve seen clearly this season, it’s time to dismantle the idea that ‘fancy’ food and ‘fine dining’ can only be foods with a Eurocentric spin.

Huge power to Sav for standing up for her skillset, and her culture and breaking down racially fuelled misconceptions.