Get cosy as we find out the 2017 MasterChef Australia champ’s favourite destinations, travel quirks, and more!
Life has been an extraordinary whirlwind of ‘gastronomical’ proportions for 32-year-old Diana Chan since she won MasterChef Australia – arguably one of the most prestigious reality cooking competitions on the planet – in 2017, defeating Ben Ungermann by a point in the grand finale – ‘nail-biting TV’ at its best.
Muar-born Diana grew up in Johor Bahru, Johor and later left for Australia at age 19 to pursue an education in finance and accounting. Before long she’s a chartered accountant at Deloitte in Melbourne, and after four years of number-punching, she decided to give her true passion, cooking, a shot – and the rest, as they say, is history!
Though Melbourne is now home, nuances of Malaysia and her Peranakan heritage are never far behind as she proudly showcased through many of the dishes she’d whipped up on Season 9 of MasterChef Australia, which culminated in her being crowned the winner (making her the second Malaysian-born champ after Penang-born Adam Liaw won in 2010).
These days the bubbly lass-next-door has her plate pretty full – a host of media appearances in Australia as well as beyond (including TV, radio and print), cooking tutorials with food brands such as Nestle and Lurpak as well as digital content for Singtel, DBS Bank and St Regis Hotel Group, among others. Which means she’s on the move quite a bit – and that suits her just fine as she gets to feed her wanderlust.
“I would love to visit South America – places like Chile, Argentina … Brazil,” enthused Diana, her eyes lighting up as she takes us through her travel bucket list. “And Taiwan! I’m super keen in checking out the street food they have over there!”
We caught up with Diana when she was in Kuala Lumpur to conduct cooking MasterClasses for guests of the Maybank Championship 2019 – and got her to share with us her favourite destinations, travel quirks, and more in this Convergence exclusive!
Share with us some of your favourite holiday destinations.
Diana Chan (DC): I’d have to go with New York – I love everything about it. Also, India, Japan, Italy, Greece. And London! I love London – I keep going back again and again.
As for Malaysian destinations, I love Ipoh, Melaka, Penang. I’m quite biased, though – I love Johor, we have the best ‘laksa’! Seremban has awesome food too.
What are the top 3 destinations on your ‘Bucket List’?
DC: Top 3? Oh that’s tough. Hmmm … South America – countries like Chile, Argentina, Brazil. I mean, South America is huge. I’d also love to go to Mexico someday. And Taiwan – I want to check out the street food scene over there.
What do you love most about travelling? And what do you hate the most?
DC: What I love the most is definitely the food, the culture, the landscapes. Every time I go to a new country, I always try to visit the local markets – just to see what the locals eat, where they shop, what they buy. I don’t generally like hotel food, I’d much rather go to the streets and check out the local fare myself.
Even what other cultures consider ‘fashionable’ or ‘pretty’ can be quite fascinating. I remember when I was in Myanmar not too long ago – I saw a few ladies with this sort of powder (made of tree bark) on their faces. I found out that it’s supposed to be ‘makeup’ ... foundation or something, which I thought was really bizarre ... but also very interesting.
What’s the first thing on your itinerary when you visit a brand new destination?
DC: I go food tracking – that’s a must! I don’t really fancy hotel food, so the first thing I do after dumping my bags in the hotel room is venture out and hunt for local food!
What are some of the travel essentials that you must have with you during your travels?
SC: I’ve got to have my eye-mask! (Haha!) Also, I’ll need my music player, earphones. Oh, and my gym gear – I like to work out even when I’m on a holiday.
Share with us at least ONE of your travel quirks.
SC: Well, I’m a bit of a clean freak. I have a pre- and post-flight shower ritual. (Haha!) Before getting on a plane, I need to shower, and when I get off the plane, the first thing I need to do is have a shower.
Holidays are often peppered with funny, interesting, memorable episodes. Share with us ONE such memory – something you still talk about to this day with a glint in your eye.
SC: About four years ago, I went to New York … and it was hit by the biggest storm in over a hundred years – Storm Jonas. The streets were covered by at least six feet of snow. I mean, you’d never have seen New York on a shut-down like that. But I was on holiday, and my friends and I just had a fun time walking along the streets ... laughing, drinking, basically having the time of our lives. It was really fun, though not advisable in hindsight – because the blizzard can be dangerous.
Are you an adventurous foodie? Share with us some of your most memorable culinary experiences.
SC: Yeah, I’m pretty adventurous. I love trying new things, new flavours. But I’d draw the line at dogs. I’ll never EVER be able to eat dog meat. No way!
What services and facilities do you find most appealing at KLIA or klia2?
SC: It’s big for sure. There are good facilities, lounges ... lots of retail outlets so you can shop while waiting for your flight. And I love the train service, KLIA Ekspres, to KL Sentral – that’s the best! It’s so convenient.
Do you have any pre-boarding rituals?
SC: Apart from the shower (as mentioned earlier), I get on a flight with my “PJs”. (Haha!) I have an on-board “uniform” – black trackies and black top. It’s become a habit now – a “bad” habit!
How do you keep yourself occupied on long layovers?
SC: I usually indulge in some reading, do some stretches, maybe yoga. Also, it’d be a great time to catch up on my favourite shows on Netflix!
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