MasterChef Asia judge Audra Morrice stays close to Singapore, her cooking inspiration

Audra Morrice, who is Singaporean and was a contestant on MasterChef Australia, runs a catering business in Sydney.
Audra Morrice, who is Singaporean and was a contestant on MasterChef Australia, runs a catering business in Sydney.PHOTO: QANTAS AIRWAYS

MasterChef Asia judge Audra Morrice's love of cooking has opened doors for her to meet people and to share her recipes

8Q

Despite having lived in Sydney for almost 20 years, MasterChef Asia judge and cook Audra Morrice, who is Singaporean, says she never feels homesick.

Morrice, 47, who moved to the Australian city in 1998, says she always has Singapore on her mind because she keeps in touch regularly with family and friends here. The different races and cultures in Singapore are also an inspiration for her when she cooks.

Since starting her stint as a judge on the reality cooking show which first aired in 2015, Morrice, who runs a catering business and is a cookbook author, has snagged more gigs that see her flying here often.

She was previously a contestant on MasterChef Australia.

The cook, who is married with two sons aged 14 and 12, says: "There's never been a period when I'm not in touch with Singapore for a long time. Also, now that I do so much work here, I have no time to miss home."

Last month, she was here for "Meet The Sydneyporeans", a tourism campaign jointly organised by Destination New South Wales and Qantas Airways.

Along with other Singaporeans who live in Sydney, she plays tour guide and shares the best places for food, wines and family adventures there.

It is a three-part video mini- series, which can be viewed on Qantas Airways' YouTube channel.

A seasoned flier, Morrice has tried a variety of on-board meals - some of which have sparked ideas for new dishes.

But even as she appreciates how airplane food has improved and can be a treat for travellers, she doles out this tip: "Don't stuff yourself on an aeroplane. You'll be so uncomfortable. Eat when you have to and hydrate often."

1 Which Singaporean food do you crave most?

The one thing I really miss is Nonya kueh such as ang ku kueh (glutinous rice cakes with various fillings); pulut inti (steamed glutinous rice topped with fresh coconut cooked in gula melaka); kueh salat (glutinous rice topped with a pandan coconut jam); the whole works. There is not a kueh I don't like.

2 When you cook for clients and dinner parties in Sydney, besides the food, how do you work elements of Singapore into the experience?

Asian food is meant to be shared. I really like how nasi ambeng is served on a big platter with rice and many dishes on the side and everyone just tucks in.

So with my clients, it is usually a sharing-plate concept. It is a great way to eat - everyone gets interacting and relaxed. It becomes more about the company and experience. Dining should not just be about the food.

3 Since you were a contestant on the fourth season of MasterChef Australia, you have done other television shows. Do you see yourself as a celebrity?

I am not involved in television because I want to be a personality. It is a way of showing people who I am, what I do and what I love.

It is also about sharing my cooking and recipes and love of food with a wider audience.

4 If you could produce and direct your own reality show, what would it look like?

It would be a show about food, culture and people. There are lots of people and cultures we do not know about, especially ordinary people.

I would love to showcase what goes on in the kitchen of someone's grandmother or explore small villages and see the lives of farmers.

Food is a powerful tool. It breaks down barriers and creates acceptance across religions and races.

5 You run a successful catering business now. Would you ever open a restaurant?

Never say never, but opening a restaurant is not my thing. It is a massive commitment and I want to see my family.

For now, the catering business works for me. I get to cook different types of dishes and meet many people.

6 What do you like about travelling?

I get a kick about travelling with my kids because they get so excited - they get to play video games for however long the flight is.

But on the flip side, when I travel alone, it is my time because I seldom have that. It is nice to be doing my thing without constant interruption from the kids.

But it does get tiring travelling all the time. Sometimes, I wish we could just teleport.

7 Where is your next foodie destination?

Morocco and also the larger North Africa region. I love my spices, so I am curious to explore what the people there use and how they cook with those in their cuisine.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As a chef who cooked the best food and was an inspiration for both men and women.

I also hope people will remember me as being approachable.

I talk to everyone, even if it's someone I don't know.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Using food as a tool to bond'. Print Edition | Subscribe