SINGAPORE - She was one of the break-out stars of reality cooking contest MasterChef Australia, wowing judges with her mean cooking skills and yummy recipes.
But what made Madam Audra Morrice, 43, a distinguished finalist among the top three was her fluency in re-creating Asian cuisine to satiate the palates of her Western judges.
Having been born and bred in Singapore, Madam Morrice's style of food is eclectically Asian, drawing influence from her Chinese-Indian heritage.
"The Singaporean influence and my rich heritage are unusual (over in Sydney), so it's nice to take the authentic flavours of Asia over there," said the petite chef, who added that her one must-have ingredient is chilli.
On-screen, the Sydney-based cook is known for whipping up a pork-belly-and-egg-noodle dish, as well as a chocolate-and-raspberry tart in the fourth season of MasterChef Australia, which premiered last year.
But off-screen, Madam Morrice is better known for her beef rendang, which is derived from her mother's recipe. "The beef rendang is a dish that all my friends love. Every time I have to cook, they'll ask for the rendang," said the chef, who caters for her family and friends.
Having studied in Australia since she was 18, Madam Morrice later emigrated there, where she tied the knot with her college beau and now husband of 12 years.
The MasterChef finalist said that she is always getting requests from her two sons, Andre and Alex Anderson, eight and 10 respectively, on what to cook.
"It's usually laksa, lasagna or Asian fair consisting of rice, vegetables and a meat dish. The kids love tofu. Sometimes we have teppanyaki - it is fun and sociable; the kids like cooking and it's good to have them active in the cooking process," said Madam Morrice.
Besides her children - who she said judge her to the nth degree - Madam Morrice said that her Chinese mother, 72-year-old housewife Stella Morrice, is her toughest critic, because she has been her biggest inspiration when it comes to food.
"(My mother) was the one who kicked it off in me, exposing me to all types of food when I was growing up.
"She was an extraordinary chef. We could have been a dynamic duo 10 or 20 years ago," exclaimed Madam Morrice.
Back in Singapore to helm a series of cooking classes last month, Madam Morrice told My Paper that joining MasterChef has opened new doors for her and given her a good view of the type of food she cooks.
"(It) became very clear on the show that I wanted to be authentically Asian-Singaporean. It also taught me to cook for other people's palates and not just my own. And you got to be incredibly organised."
The F&B enthusiast has started elements of a retail concept that she had been dreaming about: selling her signature dishes under "Audra's Gourmet Delights" and offering cooking classes.
"I'm on the road to doing some sauces and the classes are already on the run, but ultimately it would be brilliant if I could have my own little space. Cooking is definitely my passion but to turn it into a profession is the best."
The season finale of MasterChef Australia Season 4 airs today, 7pm (encore telecast at 11pm) on Lifetime Channel (StarHub Ch 514). MasterChef Australia Season 5 debuts on Oct 5.
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