B1 Intermediate 3753 Folder Collection
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So, you put a toe in the water... Yeah.
..for art? Yes.
And you're not so fussed with the idea of working for corporates?
No. Course, there was this make-up thing that was distracting me.
I thought, maybe I want to be this huge make-up person,
and go to New York, and really try and do that. Um...
Your ambition about that was pretty clear, wasn't it?
There was a particular thing you wanted to achieve in make-up?
Yeah, well, I just loved it.
I love the artistry of it. It's like painting on a face,
except you're working with a three-dimensional canvas.
Then...
..my husband at the time, Matt, said to me,
"I really feel like you should go back to your painting."
And I was quite fiery back in the day,
and I was quite opposed to the idea of it,
'cause I had no idea how to enter the industry, and I thought,
the idea was just completely ludicrous.
How did you enter it?
Well, he basically made a couple of phone calls.
Just took a risk and cold-called a couple of galleries,
and the second gallery that I ended up seeing
was Hill Smith Gallery, who I'm still with.
And Sam, after many months of me begging
and taking him the odd cupcake or two as bribery,
he gave me a solo exhibition.
That was February, and I got an exhibition for October.
It was about this time too that Matt,
apparently, persuaded you to change your name.
Yes. To drop the Sharon.
Yes. He's a filmmaker,
and he made a short film that I acted in.
He wrote in the credits "Poh Ling".
The film was called Poh Ling,
and he said Poh Ling played by Poh Ling.
So, everyone that knew me from there on just assumed that was my name.
Sort of works. Mm.
A lot people actually confessed,
"I've always felt weird calling you Sharon." (LAUGHS)
It just worked instantly.
How was it to go through this transition
from being Sharon all your life to being Poh?
It's weird because I was actually called Poh Ling till I was nine.
In Malaysia.
Always had the name Sharon.
'Cause everyone thinks I got Sharon when I came to Australia,
took it on, but that's not the case,
I always had it, 'cause in Malaysia a lot of people have English names.
But at home I have a nickname,
so I never really got addressed as anything in particular,
except for my nickname, which is B. B?
Yeah. Short for Ba-by. (BOTH LAUGH)
It's very basic. (LAUGHS)
I was about 24 when I took it on.
(SPEAKS IN CHINESE LANGUAGE)
(ALL SPEAK IN CHINESE LANGUAGE)
'I began to realise that food is this thread
that links me to my past, and that's possibly the only thing
that's going to link that past into my future.
My Auntie Kim, or gupo, as I call her,
has played a very special part in my family's life.
She definitely links me to my culture more strongly
than anyone in my family
because she doesn't speak English.'
(SPEAKS IN CHINESE LANGUAGE)
'So I have to speak Chinese to her.
In a way, I've got sort of like two mothers.
Her and my mum.' ..Chinese cooking.
'You still crave for those flavours
that you associate with your childhood, and all those memories.
So, that's when I realised,
I think this needs to be an important part of my life.
The more you cook, the more it becomes addictive,
'cause obviously, your skills expand.
It's a creative process,
so you've just got more and more of a palette to work with.'
BIRD CHIRPING
'And all this just started to create
this feverish obsession with food,
to the point where I'd stay up really late at night,
and dream up menus and interesting ingredients to put together,
and I'd fantasise all the time,
about owning my own restaurant.
'This is MasterChef.
The search for Australia's best amateur chef.'
Welcome to MasterChef... 'Well, MasterChef came about...
..I knew nothing about it, but one of my best friends sent me a text.
She said, "Hey, think you've got a good chance."
Went to the auditions,
thought, what am I doing,
queuing outside a hotel with an esky?
I'm going to be one of those lunatics
that they show in the preview.
Going on the show made me realise that I'm a risk-taker,
and that I'm very strong-willed.'
I'm actually going to do a little dessert on the side,
'cause it's something that I always eat with this dish.
LAUGHTER
What happens when you try too much? I know.
Good luck. Thank you.
'I don't have a great fear of failure
because I've learned so much from my mistakes,
and I've just learned life is a series of...
..inter-connected pear shapes. (LAUGHS)
Life is a series of inter-connected pear shapes?
Yes. I don't understand what you mean.
It's never linear, you know?
If you plan everything too much, you're sure to fail.
You have to just see where life takes you,
and it always goes a bit bad, and then it goes good again...
Oh, I see. ..and then a bit bad and then good again.
It's just allowing yourself to go with your instinct.
Sometimes it's wrong, sometimes it's right.
It was a trip back to Malaysia...
Yes. ..to see your grandfather...
Mm. ..which actually led you to think about food in a different way?
Yeah. Back then I wasn't even thinking that seriously about food,
but I just remember having this quite vivid thought.
We were all back for a family reunion,
and we were all sitting - and it's always kids' table, adults' table.
I'm still at the kids' table. (LAUGHS)
And my grandfather walked in, a bit morose, saying, oh, look at this.
All my genes getting watered down
in Australia, and my grandkids can't even speak to me,
'cause they're all Australian.
Then, we all sat down and we ate lunch. It was OK. (LAUGHS)
I thought, wow, that's really lovely how food still connects us.
Is that true at home, too? Yeah.
Here in Australia? Yeah, definitely, definitely.
In fact, I think one of the reasons
that I began to be really interested in cooking
is 'cause I feel like when I left the church,
it really did drive a bit of a wedge between especially, my mum and I.
And I really saw cooking as a thing that might bring us together, again.
And it has. It's quite amazing.
It's done exactly what I thought it would do.
You don't mean cooking on TV - you mean cooking at home, do you?
Cooking at home, yeah.
The reason I went on TV was 'cause I really wanted that book deal,
and the reason why I wanted the book deal
is I want to record all the family recipes.
It's something my mum and I had talked about for years,
but it's just one of things you never get around to doing.
So, I thought, hey, if I go on this show,
it might sort of force me to do this.
If nothing, I'll do a bit of a crash course with Mum,
force me to learn some dishes
and that could be the beginning of something really great.
That helped sort out something for me,
'cause I couldn't quite work out the connection
between you the emerging artist, that's throwing your energy into that,
and this sort of...food line.
It seems like, kind of a distraction? Yeah.
Mm, mm. I mean, I did cook a lot in the last three years.
It is something that I've become increasingly obsessed with.
I actually thought, if I had my time again,
I definitely would've done an apprenticeship,
and I thought this could be my break
to fast-track me into the industry somehow.
POH'S KITCHEN THEME MUSIC
'I find it a strange irony I've always grappled with my identity,
and now, I have my own cooking show,
and I'm sort of known on a first-name basis.
Yeah, it's very strange.'
And...action!
Bonjour, Emmanuel. Bonjour.
Welcome back to the kitchen.
'Having all the attention on me is a interesting thing,
because obviously, there is ego involved,
and I'm always very aware of that.
But, yeah, you don't ever want to take it for granted,
'cause then you'd actually think you were a star. (LAUGHS)
I hate that whole notion of celebrity. I hate it.'
It's... Frinese. French with a bit of Chinese. (LAUGHS)
I like that vision - Frinese. Yeah, Frinese.
'The whole set is actually peppered with my own belongings,
'cause I'm like a bower bird or dung beetle.
I just collect things too much,
and it's actually much bigger than my own flat - my real flat.
It's hilarious because the first time Zed went on set,
he cried to go into the garden,
and he took a whiz on a pot plant that's not really outside.
He's got a tiny brain...like me. (LAUGHS)'
Come on, darling.
What are you actually knitting, B? A scarf.
'Private time is miniscule.
It does get hard but I guess it's the price you pay when you're on TV,
and for that reason, sometimes I wonder how long I could do it for.
Jonathan, he's a DJ,
and he loves going out and partying,
and I'm quite happy having a cup of tea and hanging out with Zed.
He's the softie and I'm probably the more fiery,
aggressive one. (LAUGHS)'
What's it done to your personal identity
to become such a big, public identity?
Obviously, it has its downsides,
and um, you know, being recognised all the time can get really hard.
'Cause as much as I'm...
..like I said, I'm quite a social person, I can be a bit of a loner.
So, not being able to get around to just buy a carton of milk,
to dash to the shop really quickly, or whatever,
that can get really difficult. And sometimes,
because I don't get much downtime,
if I'm having dinner with Jonathan, or whatever,
and suddenly little queues... (LAUGHS)
..start lining up next to me - for autographs or photos -
it gets hard.
But at the same time, it's just one of the prices you have to pay
for being able to have such an amazing job.
I get to do really incredible things on the show.
When are you most at home with yourself?
Is it in front of the canvas, painting?
Yes. It is, is it? Yep.
And when I'm cooking alone.
When you're cooking alone? Yes. (LAUGHS)
Not eating alone, but cooking alone? Yes.
That's solitary. Both those things are solitary.
I know. Yep. Because when I do those things,
I feel completely OK about myself,
and the world, and myself in the world.
So, if I'm feeling upset
or I feel like I'm having trouble resolving something in my head,
if I go and cook something,
or if I paint, it completely dissipates.
I can just rest and be in that moment,
so that's why I value it so much.
It's been good talking to you.
Thank you, Peter. It's been lovely talking to you.
Closed Captions by CSI David Hull
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Poh Ling Yeow on ABC's "Talking Heads" - Part 2

3753 Folder Collection
Andrew published on July 11, 2013
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